GENERATION Z – Discovering the world of health

By editorial staff

The outbreak of the pandemic has not only put our health system under unprecedented pressure, as well as the economies of entire countries, but has also caused very obvious rips in the social fabric.
Of all the population groups affected, particular attention should be paid to the so-called ‘Generation Z’, i.e. those born between 1990 and 2010, who were deprived of the customs and rites of passage typical of adolescence and of their first taste of adult life by the limitation of emotional relationships, the cancellation of opportunities to meet and the stress caused by isolation.

In those months, girls and boys experienced a keen sense of powerlessness and uncertainty about the future, which, however, brought them face to face with a reality considered a distant realist at that age: illness is a part of life!
For this reason, in the middle of the first lockdown, Fondazione Mondo Digitale – which promotes knowledge sharing through digital tools – in collaboration with Janssen Italiathe pharmaceutical company of the Johnson & Johnson Grouplaunched Fattore J: a social education project that aimed to educate young people about empathy, respect and inclusion towards those who are ‘different’ because they suffer from a disease.

83 webinars were organised during the school year, involving over 12,000 young people throughout Italy.
These stimulated the development of their emotional intelligence on prevention and health issues and strengthened their confdence in matters regarding science.

The students were able to meet doctors and scientists to understand the characteristics, evolution and treatment of some of the most disabling diseases, and hear from patients what it means to live with a disease, to feel ‘different,’ to work twice as hard to carry out actions that, in everyday life, are considered trivial.
A real training course which, under the patronage of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, touched on areas such as onco-haematology, depression, immunology, pulmonary arterial hypertension, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and infectious diseases, and which saw the collaboration of scientifc societies and 8 patients’ associations.

The experience continued with a survey carried out involving 4,000 students on the subject of ‘trust in science’, which showed that 78% of those interviewed needed clearer scientifc communication with correct information substantiated by data.
With the new school year, therefore, Factor J will be transformed into a real school that will teach students how to combat infodemics and recognise fake news in the feld of health. Again, thanks to exchanges with experts and patients, boys and girls will be involved in new educational and popular activities aimed at raising awareness of correct scientific information, supported by an increasingly wide network of scientifc societies and patient associations.

Parallel with Fattore J, the Fondazione Mondo Digitale and the Johnson & Johnson Foundation are running Health4U, a training and orientation programme for those who have already embarked on their university careers and the world of work, with a focus on health, wellbeing and life sciences.
The pandemic has shown how necessary it is to rethink the organisation of work in healthcare and how much we need a class of professionals who are competent and prepared to manage emergencies.

A generational change is necessary for the next few years when we will experience a shortage of health personnel. This is why it is important to address Italian students to guide them through the changes that are transforming the health sector and to give them a clear picture of the professions in this feld.
This pandemic has taken a lot from us, yes, but it is also offering us the chance to build a better future, based on new schemes and models that can meet people’s new needs and offer new hope to the sick.