The Icelandic Prevention Model

The Icelandic model is based on the collaboration of numerous parties, e.g. parents, teachers, community centers, sports clubs and more in the immediate vicinity of children and young people. In the 1990s, drug use among young people was a growing problem in Icelandic society. Preventive measures that had been used to educate young people about the dangers of drug use did not seem to work properly.

Cooperation of many Stakeholders

In 1997, a group of social scientists, policy makers and people working with children and young people in the field came together and sought to formulate policies and work, based on research, that could reverse the trend. The aim of this collaboration was to map the social factors that influence young people’s drug use and to design measures that could be applied in prevention work. The result was a prevention model, the Icelandic model, which is based on the collaboration of a number of stakeholders, for example parents, teachers, community centers, sports clubs and other parties in the immediate vicinity of children and young people.

Based on Research

When working on the development of the Icelandic model, it was based on both international research and the work of our researchers based on local findings. The result was a community-based approach where the emphasis was on reaching and mobilizing the parties involved in the immediate vicinity of children. This means that the local community is mobilized and seeks to increase the likelihood that young people will use their time in a positive, constructive way. This is for example done by strengthening the support role of parents and schools and increasing the opportunities for young people to engage in organized leisure activities. The model is based on working with each region, municipality, district or even school.

Iceland has some special features in terms of possibilities in prevention work. Due to the small size of the society, Icelanders are faster than many larger nations where it is possible to go “a whole circle” with the model in just one year. This means that it is possible to measure the situation, make a decision on intervention, apply it and then measure the results all in one calendar year. The result of this work has been visible in Iceland and alcohol and drug use among young people has declined substancially since the beginning of the first survey done in 1992. The same methods can be applied elsewhere around the globe by breaking the task down and working with findings on a school or district level.