OBM Erinna Pilbeam (2009-14) has been appointed as one of two UK Ambassadors for International Adolescent Health Week (IAHW), an annual period of health observance for teenagers around the world, which is held this year from 21-27 March. She will now be a part of IAHW’s first formal Youth Ambassador programme, acting as one of 28 Youth Ambassadors from 16 different countries, who will share regional adolescent health concerns, contribute to resources, and champion IAHW in their own communities.
IAHW involves raising awareness for adolescent health through the use of virtual events and social media campaigns, as well as connecting young people who can build a community and support one another in the transition into adulthood. Ultimately the aim of IAHW is to work towards improving the health and well-being of young people.
Erinna commented: “This year the theme for the week is ‘Resilience in the Face of a Pandemic’. Many adolescents worldwide currently need mental health support and grief counselling due to the drastic changes of everyday life. Many who have been in the health system for chronic illness care are needing alternative support because of the reduction in available resources and the understandably static nature of care at the moment.
“Having been ill for eight years, I have the everyday experience of life under the cloak of invisible illness. For an adolescent, the things other people don’t see are the hardest to manage. It is a most important lesson to learn, that we cannot see everything. Showing compassion to each other is a simple way to create a strong bond to develop change for the future.”
The movement, which went global in 2018, was founded by Internal Medicine Physician Dr Laura Offutt who adds: “In her application, Erinna explained that her interest in serving as a Youth Ambassador was in part to share her insights into the challenges that negotiating the medical world as an adolescent present. As a Youth Ambassador she has been working towards these goals by imagining a variety of local activities, some digital, over the course of IAHW, and by reaching out to a variety of health based and educational institutions to raise awareness about IAHW, a rather new initiative.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Erinna since the autumn, and I do hope that the experience of championing for adolescent health, whilst connecting with like-minded young people from five continents has been a positive experience for her!”