Promoting Youth Engagement and Advocacy

Andrea Smith facilitating a panel discussion with Senator Prentiss, Representative Sullivan, and Representative Damon.

In 2022, the NH Charitable Foundation announced a pilot grant opportunity available to the 13 Regional Public Health Networks (RPHN) in New Hampshire that focused on public health community engagement and advocacy. According to the Foundation, they had come to understand that “community-based partners working to advance public health and behavioral health equity are often challenged by funding restrictions, which can prevent meaningful, and needed, participation in policy and advocacy efforts (New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, 2022).”

The purpose of the grant is to support community engagement, advocacy and lobbying efforts on a broad range of public health topics. Areas of interest include substance use, mental health, children’s behavioral health, childhood immunizations, early childhood development, and other relevant public health issues. This was a direct result of legislation introduced in the 2022 Legislative Session to reduce public health’s infrastructure. The Upper Valley and Greater Sullivan County RPHNs both applied and were awarded this grant.

Youth Advocacy Event

On October 27th, 2023, RPHN staff, Andrea Smith and Deryn Smith, hosted a Youth Advocacy Event in partnership with New Futures, and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. At this event, high school students from each of the Upper Valley and Greater Sullivan County Regions earned what advocacy is, why it is so important, and how youth can be involved in life changing advocacy work. The students participated in a panel discussion with local legislators, including Senator Prentiss, Representative Sullivan, and Representative Damon, to hear firsthand why youth voices are so impactful, best practices for youth to participate in advocacy work, and ask questions of the panelists.

Students and an advisor from the Sunapee Middle/High School learn about advocacy.

“It was clear that the students are passionate about making a difference in their school, community, and nation, and providing them with information on how they can enact positive change with their own voices was extremely impactful. Every New Hampshire resident can advocate for what is important to them, so I am excited to see how these students take the information they learned and advocate for what they are passionate about.” – Deryn Smith, Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator, Greater Sullivan County Regional Public Health Network.

Special thank you to Lebanon’s Kilton Library for generously allowing us to use their Community Room to hold this event.

— Submitted by Andrea Smith, Senior Community Health Partnership Coordinator, Dartmouth Health

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