Youth Advocates for Community Health (YACH) are local youth coalitions that focus on policy, systems, and environmental change within their communities to promote youth health and well-being.
The YACH model emphasizes the importance of youth-adult partnerships that empower youth to identify assets that promote community health and use PSE (policy, systems, and environmental) change strategies to engage meaningfully in the implementation of their ideas.
In the Dane County area, there are many community resources that focus on early childhood development and family support. However, there are limited resources and spaces designed specifically for teens. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) during formative adolescent years are associated with long-term health consequences including increased risks for teen pregnancy, sex trafficking involvement, mental illness, substance misuse, suicide ideation, and chronic disease. Overall, there is a great need for teen-specific spaces, to engage socially and receive educational, occupational, community, and health resources.
The Verona Road West area of Fitchburg is identified as a Priority Neighborhood area for increasing access to community opportunities, particularly for youth aged 11-19. In partnership with the City of Fitchburg’s Healthy Neighborhood Initiative and the Fitchburg City Council, the development of a Teen Center was proposed in spring 2022. The Community Engagement phase (Phase 1) consists of collecting youth and community input about the proposed Teen Center space. Visualizations and building concepts will be provided at the end of the Concept Development & Design phase (Phase 2). A feasibility study will be the final phase (Phase 3) before construction begins.
Led by EQT by Design and supported by UW-Madison Dane County Extension and Healthy Kids Collaborative, Phase 1 included working with eight teen interns (grades 8-12) who lived in or near the Fitchburg area to gather community input regarding the Teen Center. Strategies to gather youth and community input included: 1) a photovoice model to identify key values for the center: diversity, community connection, safety, health, and education; 2) the development of an youth-designed engagement survey that garnered 200+ youth responses; and 3) youth-led focus groups. Interns aided in the final report and presentation to the Fitchburg City Council on July 27, 2022. View the Zoom recording here and the final report here.
Starting in Spring 2023, Phase 2 project partners will engage and support youth in using the data collected in Phase 1 to co-create visual concepts and programmatic needs of the Teen Center by addressing health equity and community input. Are you a middle or high school youth in the Fitchburg/Verona area interested in being a part of Phase 2? Email Taylor Seale, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A partnership between FACT Wisconsin, Public Health Madison & Dane County, and UW-Extension. Local 8th-12th graders in the Warner Park/North Side area of Madison are engaging in public health outreach and are working together to create peer-to-peer community impact projects around tobacco prevention for youth. See what we have been up to on social media!
Download the free Youth Advocates for Community Health Guidebook here.
Why should I use the YACH Guidebook?
- The guidebook provides tools to implement effective youth participatory action research.
- It supports the process of young people identifying issues, enhancing awareness of communities, and discover their power to address community issues.
- It builds leadership skills among youth, increasing competence and confidence to address the social determinants of health, health equity, and community health issues at a policy, systems and environment level.
Taylor Seale, UW-Madison Division of Extension