NYC Health + Hospitals announced the launch of its Youth Leadership Council, a program aimed to further improve quality health care for adolescents. Led by the Adolescents Health Program in Ambulatory Care, six teens from across the city will work closely with the health system to advance care for their generation through various projects. Through virtual meetings, teens will engage with interdisciplinary teams, including social workers, behavioral health providers and primary care physicians; help influence outreach plans targeting youth, further developing welcoming environments for young adults in clinical spaces; inform quality improvement projects for adolescent services impacted by COVID-19, such as telehealth; and serve as guides for patients transitioning from pediatrics to adult care. Beginning June 26, members of the Youth Leadership Council started participating in meetings and projects that will continue for a one-year term. In the past, NYC Health + Hospitals has utilized focus groups with young adults to receive their feedback on quality initiatives that impact their access to health care. The Youth Leadership Council builds on the public health system’s commitment to create welcoming and culturally sensitive health care settings for all New Yorkers.

“If we’re trying to create more culturally sensitive clinical spaces and engage adolescents in ongoing, preventative medicine, it only made sense to include them in the conversations and program building process,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President for Ambulatory Care Ted Long, MD, MHS. “We saw the benefits of engaging with teens immediately. They’ve offered ideas on an insurance guide for young adults, and a navigator in our electronic medical record system for providers to guide adolescent patients into adult medicine.”

“The Youth Leadership Council is a product of our commitment to advocate for patients throughout every phase of their life,” said Katherine Piwnica-Worms, MD, senior director of Pediatric Health Care Delivery. “COVID-19 has brought new challenges to adolescents around employment, access to health services, telehealth, and mental health support. The Adolescent Health Program is proud to partner directly with our city’s youth and create innovative virtual spaces to build resilience and leverage their insight and expertise to improve health care services for adolescents in our system.”

After forming a model for the Youth Leadership Council, an application was shared with local high schools and civic groups across the city. Selected from over 30 applications, the inaugural class of six teens first met virtually in June. The class meets two times a week over Zoom. Teens begin by completing a comprehensive two-month training to learn more about the public health system’s mission and services, data management, program evaluation and adolescent health issues, how socio-economic factors affect outcomes, implicit bias, humility, and more.

“As soon as I learned about the Youth Leadership Program through NYC Health + Hospitals, I was interested in the opportunity to gain confidence in communications and develop leadership skills,” said Gary Jiang, a senior at Townsend Harris High School and program member. “Young adults don’t think they have a voice or can influence programs and services around them, but through collaboration and engagement we can play a role in crafting services intended for us.”

The program also includes self-empowerment components, which consist of team building exercises that encourage students to discover their voices and use them to influence change. The Youth Leadership Council will develop project plans and will participate in the system’s Adolescent Health Conference this fall, where they will be presenting a photo-voice project on what it is like to be a teen in NYC during COVID-19.

Through ongoing program evaluation, the Adolescent Health Program is closely monitoring the success of the virtual program through surveys, key benchmarks, interviews, and eventually impacts of project deliverables on both adolescents and NYC Health + Hospitals.

Components of the program were developed and will be facilitated by Ashley Duran, project manager, and Lily Divino, the programming director for the Adolescent Health Program at NYC Health + Hospitals. For more information, visit