Building power for our future leaders is essential to inform best practices and build a healthier future. We engage young people as health advocates to speak up for communities and change systems.
Young advocates and organizers have always been crucial to improving health and well-being in communities, through speaking up and getting involved in issues that matter most to them. For more than a century, Black youth activism has led to social changes—fighting against systemic racism in every corner of American society. When young advocates use their voice, time, and talents to make a difference, they build movements and impact policies and practices close to their homes and across the world.
We honor the lived experience, perspectives, and stories that youth bring to the work to improve health in Black communities. By building power for future Black leaders, we build a healthier future for everyone.
Our Initiatives and Impact
Youth Advocacy Training Initiative
Our youth advocacy training initiative is equipping youth (13 – 24 years old) to become the next generation of health justice advocates and help address policies that impact health in Black communities. Working with community partners, we identify youth who are interested in advocacy work and invite them to participate in our standardized training program. Youth receive experiential learning opportunities and with wraparound support, get real-time advice and mentorship as they implement advocacy campaigns and efforts on issues that matter to them.
Youth Influencing Food Marketing and Purchasing
As part of our multi-pronged approach to improving health outcomes in Black communities, we seek to engage youth in understanding how product marketing and availability, as well as how people’s built, social, and cultural environments influence preferences and buying decisions.
SHIFT (Shaping Our Health by Influencing Food Trends) Demand
From 2007 through 2015, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we examined the relationship of food and beverage advertisement in Black communities and food purchasing patterns. This project sought to understand how targeted marketing and product availability influenced consumer preference and buying decisions, and to explore how a community-led social media campaign might increase the availability of healthier food options.
Over the duration of the SHIFT Demand project, we utilized a mixed methods approach to understand:
Our team developed an online counter-marketing campaign targeted to Black teenagers to encourage teens to get engaged and advocate for greater access to healthy food options in their communities.
Operation Good Food and Beverages (OGF&B)
OGF&B equips students to engage with their community against targeted food marketing through social media advocacy and community events.
The OGF&B initiative was developed with youth leadership from HeartSmilesMD, an enrichment and leadership development program serving youth in Baltimore’s most underserved communities.
To get the word out, OGF&B launched a petition and social media campaign targeted at the National Restaurant Association, encouraging restaurants to put healthy meals on menus, then advertise and promote them, especially in restaurants that are popular with Black youth up to age 18.