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Dillon, Lucy (2020) Strategy and intervention framework for Planet Youth. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 74, Summer 2020 , pp. 21-23.

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In February 2020, President Michael D Higgins launched the Planet Youth strategy and implementation framework: Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.1 Planet Youth was established in Ireland in 2018 by the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF). In May 2019, the first tranche of survey data was published from pupils in schools across the three participating areas in the region (Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon).2,3,4 

Planet Youth

Planet Youth is an evidence-based approach to preventing drug use aimed at young people. A core principle of Planet Youth is that prevention activities should engage the whole population of young people, rather than targeting particular individuals or groups. Developed in Iceland, the prevention model is predicated on three pillars of success: using evidence-based practice; using a community-based approach; and creating and maintaining a dialogue among research, policy, and practice.5 There are three key components to the programme: data collection and analysis that maps out the nature of the risk and protective factors facing young people; implementing prevention activities through a wide range of stakeholders to increase protective factors and reduce the risk factors; and reflection and learning. For more detail on the background to the programme, see previous issues of Drugnet Ireland.6,7 

Strategy framework

Planet Youth is a programme that involves a wide range of stakeholders from national and local government to public bodies, schools, and community-based organisations. The authors argue that ‘prevention activities are more likely to succeed when they are systematic, evidence-based and collaborative. While the need for prevention is increasingly recognised, it often occurs in an ad hoc manner’ (p. 19). It is within this context that the strategic framework has been developed – to encourage stakeholders to prioritise prevention ‘in an integrated and holistic way’ (p. 19) and to support them in adhering to the Planet Youth model. The document outlines the vision, mission, guiding principles, and objectives of the programme in the Western Region (pp. 18–20). 

Vision and mission

Vision: All young people are active, healthy and happy, connected to their families and communities, and achieving their full potential.

Mission: To lead a process of transformative change by embedding primary prevention approaches which enhance young people’s health, relationships, environment, and wellbeing. 

Guiding principles

1          Apply a primary prevention approach that is designed to enhance the social environment.

2          Emphasise community action and embrace schools as the natural hub of community efforts to support the wellbeing and development of young people.

3          Engage and empower stakeholders to make practical decisions using local, high-quality accessible data and findings.

4          Integrate researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders into a unified team dedicated to solving complex, real-world problems.

5          Match ambition to the scale of the problem, including emphasising long-term actions, systems changes, and investment. 


1          Improve outcomes and opportunities for young people across the programme’s four domains: parents and family; leisure time and local community; school; and peer group.

2          Deliver a wide range of evidenced-informed prevention activities which address risk and protective factors.

3          At county, regional, and national level, build and maintain a strong, collaborative, well-informed partnership of community, agency, and political stakeholders.

4          Build strong brand recognition and stakeholder involvement throughout the Western Region.

5          Secure sustainable investment for development and coordination of Planet Youth in the Western Region.

6          Capture learning and track activities in order to inform the future development of Planet Youth.

7          Develop a strategy for sustaining Planet Youth linked to relevant national policies, including Better outcomes, brighter futures, the national policy framework for children and young people, and Reducing harm, supporting recovery, a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland, 2017–2025.8,9 

Implementation framework

The authors emphasise the importance of stakeholders maintaining fidelity to the Planet Youth model if the best outcomes for young people are to be achieved. To support them in doing so, section 3 of the report provides guidance on how best to implement the model by embedding primary prevention approaches into their day-to-day activities. They identify 10 steps that aim to guide the stakeholders through identifying risk and protective factors within their remit or scope and to make changes to their policy, practice, or resources in order to positively impact young people’s lives. These steps are outlined in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Steps for implementing prevention activities 

Next steps and Covid-19

In collaboration with stakeholders, WRDATF is supporting the delivery of a range of prevention activities within the region. In line with the design of the Planet Youth programme, a second schools survey was due to take place in October 2020. However, at time of print it is unclear how this will be implemented given the Covid-19 situation, although it is still hoped that it will be undertaken in some form. Covid-19 is recognised by Planet Youth as presenting challenges for young people. WRDATF is working in collaboration with the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, who developed the programme, to include questions on the impact of Covid-19 on young people in any future versions of the standardised questionnaire. 

The North Dublin Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force was similarly planning to implement the programme in their region, carrying out their initial surveys in schools in October 2020. This also faces delays given the Covid-19 situation. 

1              Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (2020) Planet Youth strategy and implementation framework: Galway, Mayo & Roscommon. Galway: Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

2              Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF) (2019) Growing up in the west: county report Mayo. Galway: WRDATF.

3              WRDATF (2019) Growing up in the west: county report Roscommon. Galway: WRDATF.

4              WRDATF (2019) Growing up in the west: county report Galway. Galway: WRDATF.

5              Sigfúsdóttir ID, Thorlindsson T, Kristjánsson AL, Roe KM and Allegrante JP (2009) Substance use prevention for adolescents: the Icelandic Model. Health Promot Int, 24(1): 16–25.

6              Dillon L (2018) Planet Youth. Drugnet Ireland, 66: 24.

7              Dillon L (2019) Planet Youth in WRDATF. Drugnet Ireland, 71: 9–11.

8              Department of Children and Youth Affairs (2014) Better outcomes, brighter futures: the national policy framework for children and young people 2014–2020. Dublin: Stationery Office.

9              Department of Health (2017) Reducing harm, supporting recovery: a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017–2025. Dublin: Department of Health.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 74, Summer 2020
August 2020
Page Range
pp. 21-23
Health Research Board
Issue 74, Summer 2020

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