This paper draws on research in the United Kingdom which set out to explore young people's understandings and experiences of health as experienced in their everyday lives and according to their own terms of reference, rather than in response to policy priorities. The project involved a peer research process followed by a large community learning event in which practitioners, community leaders and decision makers were brought together in dialogue with young people to develop understanding and explore responses to young people's health needs as a collaborative process. The paper documents an 'alternative' 'participative action research' approach to involving young people in research and developing responses to issues and problems that affect them. The paper highlights the value of a dialogical and enquiry-based approach supported by the use of visuals for engaging professionals in collaboration with young people in a process of learning for change. It draws attention to the 'policy gap' between professional understandings of young people's health needs and young people's lived realities and how this is reflected in differences in what young people and professionals consider appropriate responses to stress.