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How can health providers reach young people? URMC tries a youth advisory board

The University of Rochester Medical Center is creating an opportunity for teens to get involved in its decision making and research.

Its office of Health Equity Research is creating the medical center’s first Youth Advisory Board.

The group of 14- to 17-year-olds will provide insight into issues facing children and teens in the Greater Rochester area including suicide prevention and various cancer treatments.

“There are a lot of things going on in the lives of our youth these days,” said Dr. Edith Williams, founding director of the office of health equity research. “We desperately need the input of our young people to help us know what direction to go in with the work that we're doing.”

Williams said this type of qualitative strategy has proven to be successful at other institutions like Team 300 at Brown University and Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project.

She said her YAB will have quarterly meetings with health equity investigators where they’re expected to give honest feedback about what is being presented to them.

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“We want to get their input on whether an approach makes sense, and whether it seems like something that could be feasible and acceptable to people their age,” Williams said.

The board is looking to fill 15 seats with a group of diverse candidates. She said teens do not have to have a long-term interest in science and research, but it’s a great opportunity to create those connections and network if they do.

Williams said these are paid positions, and anyone interested could apply here.

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health, equity and community reporter and producer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.