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Dillon, Lucy (2018) Planet Youth. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 66, Summer 2018, p. 24.

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On 20 February 2018, the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF) facilitated an event introducing the Planet Youth drug prevention programme to key stakeholders in the region. Presentations were made by Michéal Durcan and Emmet Major of the WRDATF, as well as Jón Sigfússon, director of Planet Youth at the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA).1


Planet Youth: the model

Planet Youth is an evidence-based approach to preventing children and adolescents from initiating drug use. The model originated in Iceland and has been rolled out in communities in 18 countries to date. In the 1990s, a group of Icelandic social scientists, policymakers and practitioners began collaborating in an effort to address the increasing levels of drug and alcohol use among Icelandic young people.

The prevention model that emerged ‘reflexively and continuously links national-level data collection with local-level reflection and action to increase social capital’ (p. 19).2 The model is predicated on three pillars of success: evidence-based practice; using a community-based approach; and creating and maintaining a dialogue among research, policy, and practice.


Based on the presentations at the conference, there are three broad elements to the model. First is the collection of data from young people through a school-based questionnaire. This explores background factors, substance use, social circumstances, and potential risk factors associated with substance use. These data are then analysed to identify the scope of the problem and map out the risk and protective factors experienced by the young people in that area. The second element is where local stakeholders use the findings to plan and deliver a set of prevention responses – stakeholders include researchers, policymakers, practitioners, parents, school personnel, sports facilitators, recreational and extracurricular youth workers, and other interested community members. The third element is described as ‘integrative reflection’ (p. 19), whereby the impact of the interventions is measured through regular data collection, interventions amended in response to the findings, and any new issues identified.


In the Icelandic context, following the mapping of the risk and protective factors, a broad range of prevention interventions was introduced. These involved significant public expenditure and included activities such as the extensive development of structured high-quality recreational activities for young people and support for families to spend more time together. Young people’s substance use was monitored on an ongoing basis with a focus on measuring outcomes and identifying changing needs to inform the ongoing development of effective interventions. A dramatic decrease in substance use among Icelandic adolescents since 1997 has been attributed to this model.2


The Western region

In association with local partners, WRDATF has committed to supporting the introduction of Planet Youth to parts of the region. As a first step, data will be collected using the standardised Planet Youth tool with students in a selection of schools. These data will then be analysed by the team at the ICSRA and reported back to stakeholders in the WRDATF. They will use this information to develop a programme of prevention activities tailored to local needs.


1 The presentations and other materials from the day are available online at: http://www.wrdatf.ie/planet-youth.php

2 Sigfúsdóttir ID, Thorlindsson T, Kristjánsson AL, Roe KM and Allegrante JP (2009) Substance use prevention for adolescents: the Icelandic Model. Health Promotion International, 24(1): 16–25. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/28656/

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