Pivotal Role of Young Medical Students in Health Policy Making

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Shirazum Munira is a third year medical student currently studying in Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

To answer the question whether youth can contribute to decision making,story of a group of medical students from AMA-MSS(American Medical Association-Medical Student Section),back in 1970 comes in mind.They started working on public exposure to secondhand smoking by creating numerous internal resolutions on tobacco control gradually launching campaign on banning smoking in domestic flights,pitched their idea to AMA house of delegates and pressured AMA to adopt policy on banning smoking in domestic flights which led to the

ban in domestic flights in 1989.This is a glowing example of young medical students actively taking part in decision making.

Now comes the question,how youth can systematically work to contribute in health governance.The background of regulating  working hours for residents in the USA can shed light over the subject.AMSA(American Medical Students’ Association) compiled evidence of working 100+ hours a week was reducing the residents’ performance quality and patient care significantly for which AMSA launched a multi-year campaign to regulate working hours, formed coalition with medical students,residents and patient advocacy groups. AMSA petitioned to the US occupational safety and health administration and sent thousands of letters to the Congress in the year between 2001 and 2002.Finally Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education passed comprehensive work hour regulation in 2002.

 From the chain of events,it is evident that to make the voices of youth heard,being in an organisation is paramount.What one person cant achieve can be achieved by the united force of many.Medical students have the opportunity to observe community health problems from grassroot level,analyse the needs and channel their efforts in pinpointing gaps in bills,lobby for amendments,go for rallies,observing designated days related to public health issues.Student organisations like IFMSA,EMSA,Medical Students for Choice, Student National Medical Association have been making policy documents for positive health reforms.Since medical students have good credibility to the general people and ability to back their proposals with scientific evidence,they are at a good vantage point to pursue parliament representatives to propose bills favouring their issues.Under Students’ organisations,the process is taken seriously.Lengthy activities of meetings,sending letters to ministries,parliament members or gathering public support,funding become well distributed among people of same goals.These students’ organisations can do intersectoral collaborations,conduct surveys and go to political candidates during election campaign to include necessary health reforms in their election manifesto.It doesn’t imply,individual youths can’t take part in health governance.Medical Students can take part in decision making, by voting for candidates willing to tend to health issues and support positive health reforms.Furthermore,writing in newspapers,creating social media awareness,supporting, taking part in rallies,surveys and signing petitions can be great ways of imparting youth voices in decision making.

That being said,not only treating the patient but also treating the system is mandatory and including youth perspective in decision making is the demand of the hour to ensure it.

About the author

Shirazum Munira is a third year medical student currently studying in Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. She is also the Liaison officer of Standing Committee on Public Health in Bangladesh Medical Students’ Society.She is a public health enthusiast and an advocate of Gender Equality.She loves reading and writes poems and sketches conceptual art.Her articles on gender equity was published in Daily Sun Bangladesh titled,”Paradox of Economic Empowerment of Women” and “Medical Students Learn Hepatitis Test” in Financial Express BD.

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