Healthy Youth Summit Snapshot (2023)

"A breath of fresh air": Bringing youth, researchers, community leaders, health practitioners and policy makers together to more effectively engage youth in health research

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Healthy Youth Summit quick facts: 109 in-person attendees (47% youth); 110+ virtual attendees; 40 speakers (65% youth)

July 7-8, 2023; Toronto, ON (hybrid)

Empowered Youth is a key focus area of the CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health's (IHDCYH's) 2022-2026 strategic plan. Co-developed and co-delivered by IHDCYH and the Institute's Youth Advisory Council (YAC), the Healthy Youth Summit brought the research teams including youth co-leads from the first cohort of CIHR Healthy Youth Catalyst Grant recipients together with youth, community members, researchers, partners, funders, and policymakers. The participants discussed gaps and opportunities in youth health research, as well as how to foster intersectoral collaborations, and build capacity for youth engagement in health research. Youth co-led the planning, promotion, delivery, evaluation, and reporting on the Summit. Our IHDCYH YAC members and alumni took on a leadership role and emceed the summit, spoke on panels, moderated panels, and interviewed attendees for a highlights video.

Photo: IHDCYH Youth Advisory Council members with the IHDCYH Team at the Summit

  • Event Summary

    This interactive, hybrid event drew speakers and attendees from across Canada, with almost half of attendees identifying as youth. A youth-dedicated welcome and networking event was held the evening before the Summit to provide a space for connecting and conversation before the formal program started. Mi'kmaq Elder Wanda Whitebird of Paktnkek-Niktuek First Nation opened and closed each day of the Summit.

    The Summit opened with an inspiring keynote presentation from Larissa Crawford, Founder and Managing Director of Future Ancestors Services Inc., who explored Reimagining Healthier Relationships to Research 'Success' and 'Sustainability'.

    To set the context for the Summit, the opening keynote was followed by an overview of Canada's Youth Policy presented by Kym Shouldice from the Federal Youth Secretariat and Haleema Ahmed and Ira Mamis from the Prime Minister's Youth Council. The next panel presentation covered the state of the science in youth health research with Zulfiqar Bhutta, Jennifer Markides, Jonathan Lai, Bukola Salami and Roberta Woodgate covering a variety of topics, from global youth health to intersections of gender and race in youth health.

    The main activity on the afternoon of Day 1 was a series of breakout groups (in person and virtual) to discuss each of the six youth-identified priority areas in Canada's Youth Policy: Leadership and Impact; Health and Wellness; Innovation, Skills, and Learning; Employment; Truth and Reconciliation; and Environment and Climate Action. Before the breakout group sessions an all-youth panel gave rapid-fire presentations about each of the six priority areas.

    Discussion in the breakout groups was animated and fruitful. The ideas discussed were summarized and reported back to the larger group, followed by commentary on the themes and priorities arising from the day so far by a panel of CIHR leadership. The first day ended with a chance for participants to mix and mingle at a reception. Day 2 was a half day with two all-youth panels. The first panel focused on engaging youth in health research and included an informative and wide-ranging discussion with Clementine Jarrett, Emily Chan, Iehente Foote, Nova Celeste and Alejandra Van Dusen that touched on topics including taking action on children's rights, how to engage youth from diverse and hard to reach groups in research, and the importance of youth-led research. In the final panel of the Summit, Farah Qaiser, Faelynn Johnstone and Helena Kirk discussed science communication and research impact, in particular focusing on creating opportunities and making space for youth, translating evidence into policy and system change, and how to support youth in having an impact.

    Recordings of most Summit presentations and panels are available on our YouTube playlist.

  • Healthy Youth Summit Key themes

    The key themes identified during discussions at the Summit will inform the next steps in IHDCYH's Healthy Youth Initiative. Of the many topics discussed, the top themes were:

    • Research on youth health must engage youth in all stages and aspects of research.
    • Youth health research must engage youth from diverse backgrounds, including younger youth, youth with lived experience, youth whose voices are seldom heard, and youth from equity-deserving and rights-holding groups.
    • Youth health is interconnected with all other aspects of youth's lives, including education, employment, housing, income, race and racism, etc., and cannot be treated separately.
    • A systems approach is needed to address youth health.
    • Youth are best positioned to determine the desired and the actual impact of youth health research.
    • Youth engagement in all aspects of research must be meaningfully and appropriately compensated.
  • Summit Sessions

    Day 1

    Masters of ceremony: Midhula Madhu and Vivek Gill, IHDCYH YAC

    Morning sessions

    • Reimagining Healthier Relationships to Research 'Success' and 'Sustainability' – Larissa Crawford, Future Ancestors Services, Inc. – moderated by Eki Okungbowa, IHDCYH YAC
    • Introduction to Canada's Youth Policy – Kym Shouldice, Youth Secretariat, Department of Canadian Heritage; Haleema Ahmed and Ira Mamis, Prime Minister's Youth Council – moderated by Lara Killian, IHDCYH
    • State of Science Panel on Youth Health Research – Zulfiqar Bhutta, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health; Jennifer Markides, University of Calgary; Jonathan Lai, Autism Alliance of Canada; Bukola Salami, University of Calgary; Roberta L. Woodgate, University of Manitoba – moderated by Vivian Tsang, KidsCan, Maternal Infant Child and Youth Research Network (MICYRN)

    Afternoon sessions

    • Canada's Youth Policy Focus Area Quick Hits (All Youth Panel) – Chelsie Johnson, Canada's Chief Science Advisor's Inaugural Youth Council; Jordyn Playne, Métis Nation of Ontario; Judy Wu, Simon Fraser University; Sarah Mooney, IHDCYH YAC; Ahastan Surees, IHDCYH YAC; Danica Matthews, IHDCYH YAC Alumni
    • Gaps and Opportunities for Youth-Engaged Research in Canada's Youth Policy – Breakout Discussions
    • Breakout Discussion Report Back – Vivek Gill and Midhula Madhu, IHDCYH YAC; Christine Chambers, IHDCYH
    • CIHR Response Panel – Anne-Cécile Desfaits, CIHR Institute of Gender and Health; Jeff Moore, CIHR, Government and External Relations; Kate Frohlich, CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health; Rhonda Kropp, CIHR, Learning Health Systems; Sam Weiss, CIHR Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health, and Addictions – moderated by Christine Chambers, IHDCYH

    Day 2

    Masters of ceremony: Ahastan Surees and Eleanor Duffley, IHDCYH YAC

    Morning sessions

    • Engaging Youth in Health Research (All Youth Panel) - Clementine Jarrett, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children; Emily Chan, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital; Iehente Foote and Nova Celeste, Native Youth Sexual Health Network; Alejandra Van Dusen, PaCER (Patient and Community Engagement in Research) – moderated by Alexandria Martin and Ash Kolstad, IHDCYH YAC
    • Science Communication and Research Impact Panel - Farah Qaiser, University of Toronto; Faelynn Johnstone, Wisdom2Action; Helena Kirk, Helena's Hope – moderated by Eleanor Friddell, IHDCYH
  • Summit Interactivity and Engagement

    Close up of hands threading a blue bead onto string as part of an identity bead necklace activity at the Healthy Youth Summit

    Throughout the Summit we used Slido to gather questions and input from the in-person and online audience and had a comment wall where people could leave feedback and ideas throughout the event. For in-person attendees an "Identity Bead Necklace" activity encouraged participants to express their intersecting identities and creativity by selecting from a variety of beads to create a unique necklace. We acknowledge the organizers of the 2022 Indigenous DOHaD Gathering in Vancouver, BC for this idea!

  • Summit Reflections

    Quick quotes

    "I was inspired by the people I met and the experiences they shared. I see quite tangibly the important perspective that youth bring to the table."

    "'A breath of fresh air' was how I would describe my experience at the Healthy Youth Summit as a researcher. Enthusiastic youth leaders who led the summit from start to end contributed to the huge success of this summit for all."

    "Truly inspirational summit designed by youth for all of us; I am energized!"

  • For youth, by youth: Reflections on the 2023 CIHR-IHDCYH Healthy Youth Summit

    From left to right: Malvina Chhina (IHDCYH YAC), Larissa Crawford (youth keynote), Ahastan Surees (IHDCYH YAC)

    By Malvina Chhina, IHDCYH Youth Advisory Council member

    As one of the youngest attendees, I deeply appreciated the opportunity to have my first experience with a research conference in Canada through the Healthy Youth Summit. Other attendees shared the same sentiment – I learned through conversations with fellow participants that they too had never attended a similar event. The resounding consensus was that this conference was truly an event organized by youth, for youth. Speakers at the Summit ranged from fellow members of the IHDCYH Youth Advisory Council, to research directors and child rights advocates. Throughout the summit they imparted their knowledge through panels focusing on youth, science and health research in Canada.

    One key lesson that I took away is the importance of recognizing the value of my own lived experiences, regardless of my age. Many panelists emphasized how their lived experiences have shaped their journeys, leading them to their current positions. It struck me that these individuals followed diverse paths, and it is this very diversity that holds immense value. As I reflect back on the Summit, I realize that young women of color like myself rarely get the opportunity to have their voices heard. Consequently, we often feel grateful simply for being given the chance to share. My experience at the Summit has led me to believe that it is others who should be appreciative of the chance to hear our opinions. Nothing can replace the authenticity of lived experiences, and events like the Healthy Youth Summit make space for these perspectives to be heard and valued.

More info

Check out our video summary, photo gallery, and Youth Report for more info about the Healthy Youth Summit.

Contact information

To connect with the CIHR Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health about the Healthy Youth Summit, Healthy Youth Initiative, or partnership opportunities related to Youth Health research, please contact:

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