Common Questions

Below you can find common questions about the Planet Youth program and more with detailed answers. 

Planet Youth is based on the Icelandic Model of Prevention, that has been implemented in Iceland for the past three decades Planet Youth is now its own legal entity supporting communities globally and has implemented over 1 million questionnaires worldwide. Planet Youth is based in Reykjavik with employees located around the world. You can read more about our team members here:

The Planet Youth process is designed to strengthen protective factors, mitigate risk factors, and build healthy community environments for positive youth development by focusing on key domains in the local school community:

  • Family factors
  • Peer group
  • Extracurricular activities and sports
  • School wellbeing

Planet Youth is established on the following pillars of success:

  • Evidence-based practice
  • Community-based approach
  • Creating and maintaining a dialogue among research, policy, and practice

The Planet Youth Guidance Program is based on the Icelandic Prevention Model, an evidence-based model aimed at preventing children and adolescents from the initiation of substance use.

Before this prevention model was applied, youth in Iceland scored near the top in alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use in 1998. Nationally almost 25% were smoking every day and over 40% had been drunk in the past month. Through a community-based approach, the country has increased connectedness among its citizens while dramatically reducing youth substance use and bullying. The chart below shows the positive changes over the last 20+ years.

In developing our approach, we relied on global research findings, as well as our own local observations about those individual and societal factors that contribute to the likelihood of adolescent substance use in Iceland. Based on the literature, and informed by our own work, a community-based, bottom-up approach was designed to deter adolescent substance use. The emphasis of our approach was on getting all relevant stakeholders to the table to build a network of support, monitoring and opportunities for positive youth development at the local community level. 

We aimed to demonstrate that it is possible to develop theory-driven intervention to promote and facilitate social capital on the neighborhood level, to decrease the likelihood of adolescent substance use by strengthening the supportive role of parents and schools and the network of opportunities around them. The prevention model that emerged reflexively and continuously links national-level data collection with local-level reflection and action to increase social capital. The model builds upon traditional planning models (iterative cycles of evidence, reflection, action) but with characteristics inspired by Icelandic spirit and temperament.

Hundreds of communities around the world have been introduced to the Planet Youth Guidance Program. To learn more about participating communities please visit:

The Planet Youth guidance program requires a shift in thinking. It requires going from an individual perspective to a collective perspective, and from short-term goal setting to long-term goal setting. Primary prevention efforts can be hard to sell because they take time. By implementing this primary prevention effort in Iceland, protective factors have increased, risk factors have decreased, and substance use in youth has been reduced.

Laws were changed.

  • It became illegal to buy tobacco under the age of 18 and alcohol under the age of 20, and tobacco and alcohol advertising was banned.
  • Links between parents and school were strengthened through parental organizations which by law had to be established in every school, along with school councils with parent representatives. Parents were encouraged to attend talks on the importance of spending a quantity of time with their children rather than occasional “quality time”, on talking to their kids about their lives, on knowing who their kids were friends with, and on keeping their children home in the evenings.
  • A law was also passed prohibiting children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10 pm in winter and midnight in summer. It’s still in effect today.

Parental agreements were established.

Home and School, the national umbrella body for parental organizations, introduced agreements for parents to sign. The content varies depending on the age group, and individual organizations can decide what they want to include. For kids aged 13 and up, parents can pledge to follow all the recommendations, and also, for example, not to allow their kids to have unsupervised parties, not to buy alcohol for minors, and to keep an eye on the well-being of other children. These agreements educate parents but also help to strengthen their authority in the home, argues Hrefna Sigurjónsdóttir, director of Home and School. “Then it becomes harder to use the oldest excuse in the book: ‘But everybody else can!’”


Funding for Leisure Time

State funding was increased for organized sport, music, art, dance and other clubs, to give kids alternative ways to feel part of a group, and to feel good, rather than through using alcohol and drugs, and kids from low-income families received help to take part. In Reykjavik, for instance, where more than a third of the country’s population lives, a Leisure Card gives families 350 Euro / $420 USD per child per year to pay for recreational activities.


The survey is ongoing, and new programming is being designed annually.

Before the Icelandic Prevention Model, most approaches in Iceland were individual level health education, where we would teach kids about the harm of drugs at school and youth centers. “At that time, there had been all kinds of substance prevention efforts and programs,” says Inga Dóra, head researcher at ICSRA. “Mostly they were built on education.” Kids were being warned about the dangers of drink and drugs, but, as Harvey Milkman had observed in the US, these programs were not working. “We wanted to come up with a different approach.” These are common approaches, and as shown by the data, they were not helpful approaches preventing Icelandic youth from using drugs, alcohol, and participating in other risky behaviors. 

It is important for families, schools, community stakeholders, community-serving organizations, and government institutions to collaborate to create a healthy environment for children to live in. This requires teamwork, long-term vision, and long-term commitment.

Yes! Many communities encompass the infrastructure to run this approach. The key to success requires collaboration, long-term commitment, ability to collect data, long-term funding, and dedication to making a difference in the community.

It is important to note that this model requires a shift in thinking, from an individual perspective to a collective perspective, and from short-term goal setting to long-term goal setting.

The Planet Youth data tool was designed to survey youth aged 12-18 years old on risk and protective factors in key community domains (family, school, peer groups, and out-of-school time activities) in addition to perceptions of substance use. The data is very important as the key findings drive the localized plans and strategies. The frequency of the survey also allows the local teams to revisit the data and track progress annually or biennially.

The YRBS, ESPAD, and Planet Youth survey have different purposes and complement each other well. The YRBS and ESPAD are used as surveillance tools to track trends over time. While the Planet Youth survey also tracks trends of substance use over time, it is designed to support local decision-making by giving communities information on what is happening right now with their youth. A difference of the Planet Youth survey is that it aims to collect data on risk and protective factors that the YRBS and ESPAD do not currently capture. The data from the Planet Youth survey is also available quickly (around 6-8 weeks). The YRBS data is often received 12-18 months after the survey. The Planet Youth survey is implemented on an annual or biennial basis.

Contact the Planet Youth team to learn about how your community can participate in the Planet Youth Guidance Program:

Planet Youth is here to help throughout the process. We currently provide the following:

  • Workshops
  • Core questionnaires and timely data analysis (6-8 weeks)
  • Reports on the local situation (school and community) and status of risk and protective factors
  • Project management support and designated Planet Youth contact(s) to support sites through the process
  • Community advisement throughout the 10-step process
  • PY community access
  • Resource library access with supportive community materials
  • Guidebook
  • Guidance for community work and interventions
  • Tools for progress tracking

Additionally, we are always available for questions that may come up.

There are many materials you can read for more information.

  1. The Planet Youth Method
  2. Kristjansson AL, Mann MJ, Sigfusson J, Thorisdottir IE, Allegrante JP, Sigfusdottir ID. Development and Guiding Principles of the Icelandic Model for Preventing Adolescent Substance Use. Health Promotion Practice. 2020;21(1):62-69. doi:10.1177/1524839919849032
  3. Kristjansson AL, Mann MJ, Sigfusson J, Thorisdottir IE, Allegrante JP, Sigfusdottir ID. Implementing the Icelandic Model for Preventing Adolescent Substance Use. Health Promotion Practice. 2020;21(1):70-79. doi:10.1177/1524839919849033
  4. Sigfusdottir ID, Soriano HE, Mann MJ, Kristjansson AL (2020). Prevention is Possible: A Brief History of the Origin and Dissemination of the Icelandic Prevention Model. Health Promotion Practice, 21(1), 58-62. doi: 10.1177/1524839919886314
  5. Planet Youth in the Media
  6. Contact us!