Issues & Need

The wide disparities in health among underserved communities necessitate the inception of YOUTH Health Watch (YHW) in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Health Survey reveals that 29.3% of Latinos, 22.1% of African Americans, 21.7% of Asians, and 19.1% of American Indians report they are in poor health, compared to 12.5% of white Americans. Disparities in the incidence and survival of diseases are also evident (CDC). Reasons for these disparities are attributed to socio-economic (lack of insurance, poor education), cultural (language barriers, distrust in healthcare system, lack of cultural competence among providers, religious beliefs), and system-level factors (use of inappropriate information channels, no usual care physician, provider delay in diagnosis and treatment). Research suggests that these access barriers can be reduced by factors such as the availability of information, family support, and the availability of good local services with clear pathways of access.

YHW serves to lift these barriers by educating teens to disseminate vital healthcare and advocacy information to their families, peers, and wider communities. Based on the transtheoretical model of behavior change (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross 1992), the youth serve as community health workers and are empowered to affect change toward their own health and healthcare by training the social unit (family, peers, wider community) necessary to maintain the new health behaviors.

Fellowship Program Overview

YHW consists of three program components:

  1. Workshops — Workshop training focuses on how to raise awareness and how to be life-time healthcare advocates, and in particular how to transfer knowledge and skills to family members, peers, and the wider community. Topics span health system access and navigation (managed care plans, free clinics, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.), disease prevention (diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer, colon cancer, HIV/AIDS, breast and cervical cancer, etc.), nutrition on a low budget, and the importance of exercise. Fellows also present select information to peers during health education class.

  2. Mentorship — Fellows are mentored on healthcare career opportunities for both college and non-college bound students. Guest speakers assist in workshop training and mentorship.

  3. Social Media & Advocacy — The social media & advocacy component offers a unique opportunity to train the fellows on the power of entertainment media as an added mechanism to invoke social change. Fellows will work throughout the program year to create a documentary film and a Youth Health Watch You Tube Channel. The purpose of the documentary film is to elucidate the access barriers germane to the fellow’s home environment and neighborhood, while the You Tube channel will serve to educate peers about healthcare advocacy and navigation tips. YHW will also screen the documentary film for family members, peers, and other community participants as an additional education outreach and empowering tool. Facebook and Twitter will be used to market the work of the YHW fellows and direct traffic to the YHW You Tube Channel.


There are two primary goals of the YHW Advocacy Fellowship Training Program:

  1. Improve health awareness, attitudes, and access toward individual, family, and community health.

  2. Provide an enriching mentorship experience that introduces fellows to a wide range of career opportunities in the health care sector and beyond.