Over the last year, Denver's public health agencies, Denver Dept. of Public Health & Environment and Denver Public Health, have been hard at work engaging Denver's youth to learn more about the threats to youth health and how the City and youth serving organizations can help youth reach their definitions of success. The process all began with the formation of a Youth Leadership team, which consisted of 9 hired youth between the ages of 15 and 18 who lived, worked, played, and prayed in Denver. These 9 youth leaders were hired from an applicant pool of over 100 Denver youth and the led work for Denver's Youth Health Assessment (YHA). The YLT was supported by a group of public health professionals from DDPHE and DPH that helped to guide the YHA work and train the youth in social determinants of health, assessment best practices, data collection, and data analysis.
The Youth Leaders would meet twice monthly from February 2017 until the YHA report launched in January 2018. At these meetings the youth would not only discuss what they thought the biggest issues facing Denver's youth were, but also what were the questions that the YHA needed to ask and what was the best way to ask youth these questions. Ultimately, the youth decided on two questions: "What is the most important issue impacting your health and the health of young people you know? Why?" and "What does success look like for you in your community?" These questions were put into a survey format that the youth leaders gave out to youth at their schools, community recreation centers, extracurricular activities, and on the Auraria Campus. Additionally, to try to gather as many viewpoints as possible the YLT held four listening sessions with youth from different youth serving organizations that can be traditionally harder to reach using traditional survey formats including youth at Street Fraternity, Gang Rescue And Support Program (GRASP), Denver Public School's 5280 program, and the Safe City Youth Leadership team. The YLT had great success in reaching out to their peers and ultimately, reached over 400 different Denver youths from 47 schools and 87% if Denver's zip codes.
Once the data was collected, the YLT began to analyze the data by reading over all the responses collected and organizing them into themes. These themes were ultimately organized into two distinct categories: Threats to Youth Health and Opportunities and Actions for Youth Success. The youth identified Threats to Youth Health were Mental Health Challenges, Substance Use, Challenges Related to Living a Healthy Life, Safety and Exposure to Violence, Unhealthy Relationships, Inadequate Access to Healthcare, Trauma, and Loss of Community Identity in the Face of Changing Neighborhoods. However, Denver's youth identified ways that we (citizens, youth serving organizations, and policy makers, etc.) can help - including Strengthening Community Connectedness, Supporting Youth Resilience, and Driving the Image of Youth as Unique, Multi-Faceted Individuals. If you're interested in learn more about Denver's Youth Health Assessment and the ways you can better support youth health in Denver then check out the YHA report by clicking here.