Evidence-informed primary prevention for youth

Numerous community prevention programs operate to reduce alcohol and other drug harms in youth. Two examples of evaluated youth prevention programs are outlined below (one local and one international).

Primary prevention in Yarrabah, Queensland

A program led by an Aboriginal community in far north Queensland identified an increase in risky alcohol consumption by young people in the community. Key stakeholders came together and sourced funding from the Australian Government’s National Binge Drinking Strategy to organise a two-year program that targeted short term risky drinking amongst people aged between 18-24 years old.24

The strategy focused on raising awareness of safe drinking practices, promoting alternative alcohol-free events, and providing diversionary supervised activities (e.g. sport, music and cultural events) to alleviate boredom and facilitate peer engagement.24

The diversionary activities were a key focus, providing an opportunity for achievement and a sense of self-empowerment.24 Stakeholders in the community planned a yearly program which involved two major events and 12 minor activities.25 Larger events celebrated the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and smaller activities involved sporting, music and cultural events.25 All events involved harm reduction education about risky alcohol consumption.25 Although the program was targeted toward young people, events were inclusive of all members of the community.25 The program reached 1,880 people in the first year, and the average age of participants was 16 years old.25

The program, named “Beat da Binge”, was found to reduce binge drinking in the community, providing an example of a successful prevention strategy.26 The main

strengths of the program were identified as:

  • community-led
  • used participatory strategies
  • engaged young people in the design, implementation and evaluation
  • created partnerships with researchers for evaluation.24

The program was associated with a 10% reduction in the proportion of survey respondents who reported engaging in short term risky drinking, as well as an increased awareness of standard drinks and binge drinking.24 The evaluation of the program emphasised that having access to community-specific data is important for enabling communities to target local risk factors and produce robust evaluation.24

Primary prevention in Iceland: Planet Youth

Planet Youth is a community-based model in Iceland that has been internationally recognised for its efforts in preventing alcohol and other drug use in adolescents through strengthening known protective factors.

The Planet Youth model was implemented in response to rising alcohol and other drug use by adolescents in the late 1990s.27

Two key protective factors are emphasised by the Planet Youth approach:

  • increasing parental monitoring and communication, and
  • the promotion of alternative and diversionary supervised activities (e.g. participation in sports). 15, 27, 28

The program focuses on engaging parents and strengthening connections within the community.27 There is an emphasis on parents spending more time with their children, as well

as providing increased support and monitoring.27

Increased participation in sports has been made easily accessible by providing parents in Reykjavík (regardless of socioeconomic status) access to a leisure card which subsidises fees to encourage young people to participate

in various organised activities.29 The card gives families access to over 100 different organisations which provide access to dance, music, sport and other youth organisations.29

Planet Youth has demonstrated that alcohol and other drug use may be reduced by increasing:

  • participation in supervised activities
  • time spent with parents
  • support at school
  • supervision during the evenings.15

As a result of its success, Planet Youth has been implemented in 20 countries.

Community organisations:

Community organisations can support young people, parents, educators and other carers through the provision of evidence-based prevention programs and diversionary activities, such as organised leisure opportunities (e.g. sports or arts), and alcohol-free events.

Consider facilitating strategies such as positive parenting programs, mentoring programs, peer- support activities and education activities.

Local government:

Diversionary events and recreation are key protective factors for young people and the community, to promote peer engagement and encourage young people to develop resilience and life-skills.

Some states and territories have sport vouchers available for school students to subsidise sporting costs. Consider making recreational sports and arts more accessible for local youth to increase participation.

Policy makers:

Exposure to alcohol advertising can impact on the drinking behaviours and attitudes of young people. Restrictions on alcohol advertising on public transport, social media and near schools may be beneficial.

Subsidised access to various diversionary activities can assist families in providing their children with the opportunity to participate in organised activities such as sport and art.

Local Drug Action Teams

Local Drug Action Teams (LDATs) are community primary prevention groups funded to implement activities that prevent the harms associated with alcohol and other drug use. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has now supported the formation of 244 LDATs across Australia.

LDAT participants engage community stakeholders and partnerships, conduct a needs analysis based on community consultation and available data, and implement an action plan followed by evaluation.

The LDAT Program provides multiple resources available to the public on best practice for primary prevention strategies.

Local Drug Action Teams

Good Sports

The Good Sports program is available at no cost to sporting clubs nationwide and has been shown to reduce harm, positively influence health behaviours, strengthen club membership and boost participation.

Good Sports

  1. Stone AL, Becker LG, Huber AM, Catalano RF. Review of risk and protective factors of substance use and problem use in emerging adulthood. Addictive behaviors. 2012;37(7):747-75.
  2. Demant J, Schierff LM. Five typologies of alcohol and drug prevention programmes. A qualitative review of the content of alcohol and drug prevention programmes targeting adolescents. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. 2019;26(1):32-9.
  3. National Public Health Partnership. The Language of Prevention. Melbourne: National Public Health Partnership; 2006.
  4. Ritter A, King T, Hamilton M. Why do people use psychoactive drugs? Drug Use in Australian Society. Melbourne: Oxford University Press; 2013.
  5. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Health Organisation. International Standards on Drug Use Prevention Second updated edition. Worldwide: United Nations; 2018.
  6. Stockings E, Bartlem K, Hall A, Hodder R, Gilligan C, Wiggers J, et al. Whole-of-community interventions to reduce population-level harms arising from alcohol and other drug use: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Addiction. 2018;113(11):1984-2018.
  7. Loxley W, Toumbourou JW, Stockwell T, Haines B, Scott K, Godfrey C, et al. The Prevention of Substance Use, Risk, and Harm in Australia: a review of the evidence. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing; 2004.
  8. Rowland B, Toumbourou JW, Satyen L, Tooley G, Hall J, Livingston M, et al. Associations between alcohol outlet densities and adolescent alcohol consumption: A study in Australian students. Addictive Behaviors. 2014;39(1):282-8.
  9. Huckle T, Huakau J, Sweetsur P, Huisman O, Casswell S. Density of alcohol outlets and teenage drinking: living in an alcogenic environment is associated with higher consumption in a metropolitan setting. Addiction. 2008;103(10):1614-21.
  10. Li C, Pentz MA, Chou CP. Parental substance use as a modifier of adolescent substance use risk. Addiction. 2002;97(12):1537-50.
  11. Gluckman P, Hayne H. Improving the transition: Reducing social and psychological morbidity during adolescence. Auckland: Office of the Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Committee; 2011.
  12. Kristjansson AL, Sigfusdottir ID, Allegrante JP. Adolescent substance use and peer use: a multilevel analysis of cross sectional population data. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. 2013;8(1):27.
  13. Prior M, Sanson A, Smart D, Oberklaid F. Pathways from infancy to adolescence: Australian Temperament Project 1983-2000 (Research Report No. 4). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies; 2000.
  14. Pulkkinen L, Pitkänen T. A prospective study of the precursors to problem drinking in young adulthood. Journal of studies on alcohol. 1994;55(5):578-87.
  15. Kristjansson AL, James JE, Allegrante JP, Sigfusdottir ID, Helgason AR. Adolescent substance use, parental monitoring, and leisure-time activities: 12-year outcomes of primary prevention in Iceland. Preventive medicine. 2010;51(2):168-71.
  16. Kristjansson AL, Sigfusdottir ID, Thorlindsson T, Mann MJ, Sigfusson J, Allegrante JP. Population trends in smoking, alcohol use and primary prevention variables among adolescents in Iceland, 1997–2014. Addiction. 2016;111(4):645-52.
  17. Meyer L, Cahill H. Principles for school drug education. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training,; 2004.
  18. Spirito A, Hernandez L, Cancilliere MK, Graves H, Barnett N. Improving parenting and parent-adolescent communication to delay or prevent the onset of alcohol and drug use in young adolescents with emotional/behavioral disorders: A pilot trial. Journal of child & adolescent substance abuse. 2015;24(5):308-22.
  19. Wise M, Angus S, Harris E, Parker S. Scoping study of health promotion tools for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Melbourne: The Lowitja Institute. 2012.
  20. Swainston K, Carolyn S. The effectiveness of community engagement approaches and methods for health promotion interventions. Rapid Review Phase 3 (including consideration of additional evidence from stakeholders) England: University of Teesside; 2008.
  21. Shakeshaft A, Doran C, Petrie D, Breen C, Havard A, Abudeen A, et al. The effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption and harm: a cluster randomised controlled trial. PLoS medicine. 2014;11(3):e1001617.
  22. Anderson LM, Adeney KL, Shinn C, Safranek S, Buckner-Brown J, Krause LK. Community coalition-driven interventions to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015(6).
  23. Fagan AA, Hawkins JD, Catalano RF. Engaging communities to prevent underage drinking. Alcohol Research & Health. 2011;34(2):167-74.
  24. Jainullabudeen TA, Lively A, Singleton M, Shakeshaft A, Tsey K, McCalman J, et al. The impact of a community-based risky drinking intervention (Beat da Binge) on Indigenous young people. BMC public health. 2015;15(1):1319.
  25. McCalman J, Tsey K, Bainbridge R, Shakeshaft A, Singleton M, Doran C. Tailoring a response to youth binge drinking in an Aboriginal Australian community: a grounded theory study. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1):726.
  26. Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council. Community Profile n.d. [cited 2019 August 26].
  27. Sigfúsdóttir ID, Thorlindsson T, Kristjánsson ÁL, Roe KM, Allegrante JP. Substance use prevention for adolescents: the Icelandic model. Health Promotion International. 2008;24(1):16-25.
  28. Dillon L. European drug trends. Substance abuse prevention and the Icelandic model[Internet]. 2018 [cited 2019 August 26]; (66):[1-32 pp.].
  29. City of Reykjavik. The Leisure Card 2019[cited 2019 August 26].

Was this page helpful?