Sigfúsdóttir, now director of the ICSRA, told Dr. Goldman about the keys to the program’s success, one of which is a focus on gathering evidence and publishing it to back up their results.
Another key element involves parents spending much more time with their kids, something Sigfúsdóttir says wasn’t an easy sell in Iceland, where adults prefer work over play.
“It was not very popular because we wanted to believe in something we call ‘quality time’ — spending just a little time with them over a weekend, [or] going to a museum. We love work, so we needed to learn that spending time with our kids is a priority,” she said.
The local government also provided the equivalent of about $650 Canadian per child, per year, to parents for after-school programs such as sports or music.
Helgeson says that policy has been transformative.
“Teenagers now know they have better options than to use alcohol and tobacco,” he said adding.
Soccer fields like this one are used heavily, thanks to subsidies for after school activities provided by the Icelandic government. (Brian Goldman )
Parents also stepped up, taking part in “parental walks” in their neighbourhoods, to look out for kids who might be at risk, and speaking to those who are out past the the suggested curfew set by the country’s Child Protection Act. During the school year, teens between 13 and 16 should be inside by 10 p.m. For those under 12, it’s 8 p.m.
Sigfúsdóttir says evidence shows that even if all parents don’t buy in to taking part, there’s a “neighbourhood effect” that benefits the majority of kids.
Parents are also encouraged to monitor who their kids’ friends are, meet the parents of those friends, and keep tabs on where they are hanging out. Sigfúsdóttir called it a “protective factor” to prevent drug use.
The success of the program has attracted interest from many other countries, including Ireland, Chile, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Latvia. This October, Planet Youth experts are visiting Manitoba.
Officials in Lanark County in Ontario say they’re also looking to Planet Youth to help curb teen drinking, and to prepare for the legalisation of cannabis in Canada this October. White Coat, Black Art will have more on what’s happening in that region in an upcoming episode.
Sigfúsdóttir questioned Canada’s move to legalise cannabis, suggesting the country is “normalising” the drug for kids, even though they legally aren’t allowed to partake.
“We’re responsible for getting them through this age period without using any drugs. And kids who do not start during those first 18 or 20 years are much less likely to have this as a problem later in life, said.
“Why not give them a chance to lead happy, healthy lives? Why would they need to use substances? Why do you need to have it as an option?” she said.
Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/lessons-from-iceland-how-one-country-turned-around-a-teen-drinking-crisis-1.4813129?_cldee=bGlzYUByb2dvemluc2t5Lm9yZw%3d%3d&recipientid=contact-e551c9199c4ce8118147480fcff4b171-4edbfbd1d2c14421908f0a50906f6adb&esid=1e9b766c-56b7-e811-8169-480fcff4b5b1