EUROPSO Young Round Table 2023: The importance of involving young people in advocacy and campaigning

Motivating young patients to exit their comfort zone and become patient advocates

Same as in any other therapeutic area, involving young people in PsO/ PsA advocacy and campaigning is essential to building a more diverse and inclusive movement that reflects the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. By providing opportunities for young people to engage, lead, and learn, we can ensure that the next generation of advocates and leaders is well-prepared to continue the fight for important causes in the future.

As the first step towards empowering future young patient advocates, EUROPSO organised a Young Round Table (YRT) past weekend, on April 1, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium.

Immediately after this workshop meeting, we spoke with Jan Koren, the President of EUROPSO, about models to get young people involved in advocacy and campaigning.

„If I wanted to summarise the most important models for involving young people, I would definitely shortlist it to: Youth Advisory Councils, Peer-to-Peer Advocacy, Youth-Led Campaigns, Mentorship Programs, and, inevitably at these times, Digital Campaigns“ says Koren.

Establishing youth advisory councils would allow young people to provide input and feedback on advocacy and campaigning efforts can help ensure that their voices are heard and their perspectives are valued.

As for the peer support, encouraging young people to advocate for causes they care about within their own peer groups, such as through social media or school-based campaigns, can help build momentum and engagement.

According to Maria Helena Guia, a young patient advocate from Portugal and attendee of EUROPSO’s workshop, “The sharing of people from different countries is very enriching and expands everyone’s vision. Participants were left with lights on how to create an advocacy plan, a tool that could be quite useful. There are young people with a lot of desire to make a difference, but they have to be motivated not to stop. It is important that the organization be more assertive about the expectations of the meetings.”

Empowering young people to take the lead on advocacy and campaigning efforts, such as through youth-led lobbying for policy changes can help build a sense of ownership and investment in the cause. “Mental health and psoriasis, social media or internet in general“ are the subjects another participant of this year’s YRT, Luna Fernandez from Spain would like to see in workshops at the Annual Members Meeting in November this year. According to her, three new key learnings from this workshop are: „1. Very different experiences in different countries; 2. Despite this, very similar preoccupations in us, young patients, and 3) New knowledge in organisation governance.“

Since young people naturally lack life experience, pairing them with experienced advocates and campaigners through mentorship programs can help build skills and provide opportunities for growth and development.

Finally, leveraging digital platforms and tools, such as social media or online petitions, can help young people engage in advocacy and campaigning efforts on a global scale and reach a wider audience.

„We plan to do everything we can, as EUROPSO, to establish these models in the next couple of years. Our first step was to hold this YRT workshop in Brussels last weekend and make basis for establishing a YoungEuropso Committee. However, there are many obstacles that make these aforementioned models hard to realise and addressing these obstacles requires a concerted effort by healthcare organisations, patient advocacy groups, and policymakers to create inclusive and supportive environments that empower young patient advocates to make an impact and advance in their careers“ concluded Koren.