Training in environmental health (EH) engages and inspires youth to tackle health promotion and policy change. Yet, there is little guidance on how to successfully nurture and sustain youth engagement. This paper compares four case studies of youth engagement to promote EH in rural and urban communities using the Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES!) framework. Of the case studies in rural (Central Appalachia) and urban (Cincinnati, Ohio) communities, two employ citizen science approaches using PhotoVoice and environmental sampling; one engages youth in a science communication camp; and one focuses on policy advocacy. We compare and contrast these case studies using the YES! Critical Components and Empowerment levels. The case studies were discussed at the 2020 Partnerships in Environmental Public Health Meeting, where participants identified challenges and possible solutions for promoting and maintaining authentic youth engagement in EH research and advocacy. Analysis of the case studies indicated that youth engagement activities focusing on the individual were more common than those targeting the organizational setting or the community. Youth demonstrate agency to impact EH issues in their communities by engaging in hands-on opportunities to practice citizen science and advocacy. Overcoming challenges to authentic young engagement is important to sustain this work.
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This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences through R01ES024771, P30ES026529, P30ES006096, and P30ES030283. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIH.
Cardarelli, Kathryn M.; Ickes, Melinda J.; Huntington-Moskos, Luz; Wilmhoff, Craig; Larck, Angela; Pinney, Susan M.; and Hahn, Ellen J., "Authentic Youth Engagement in Environmental Health Research and Advocacy" (2021). Health, Behavior & Society Faculty Publications. 35.