TEENAGERS: Planet Youth prevention model introduced in West Dunbartonshire

By Lucy Ashton

West Dunbartonshire Council has announced that one local school is participating in an innovative positive lifestyle project that follows the example of ‘the cleanest living teens in Europe.’

The Planet Youth prevention model was first introduced in Iceland, where it instigated a huge drop in teenage drinking and smoking, increased sport participation and enabled families to spend more time together.

Now the charity Winning Scotland has teamed up with Planet Youth and four public sector organisations across the country to introduce a similar model at Clydebank High School, which will begin by running confidential pupil surveys across 10 secondary school communities to take a snapshot of teenage life in the area.

Beth Culshaw, Chief Officer of West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Establishing good health habits at an early age has a significant positive influence on the physical and mental wellbeing of our community.

Beth Culshaw and Laura Mason, of West Dunbartonshire Council.

“We are proud, therefore, to partner Winning Scotland in this innovative programme which seeks to work proactively with young people and draw upon their views to establish relevant support structures that can help them make positive lifestyle choices now, and in the future.

“Our Alcohol and Drug Partnership have worked closely with staff at Clydebank High School and engaged with parents and guardians to reassure that the survey process will be strictly confidential to protect the privacy and welfare of the young people who take part.”

Laura Mason, Chief Education Officer for West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “The Planet Youth concept complements our ethos of working in partnership with our young people to encourage them to make life choices that will help them now and in the future.

“The staff at Clydebank High School are excited to be part of a forward-thinking project that boasts a proven track record of improving the environment and social habits of young people in multiple countries around the world.”

In Iceland, Planet Youth instigated a huge drop in teenage drinking and smoking, increased sport participation and physical activity levels, and enabled families to spend more time together – leading to young people in Iceland being labelled ‘the cleanest living teens in Europe’.

Planet Youth involves running regular surveys with secondary school pupils to take a snapshot of teenage life in their local area.

The surveys are completely confidential and ask the pupils about their school and home life and how they spend their free time – including whether they use drugs and alcohol. The surveys also ask pupils about things they would like to do or happen at school and in their local area.

Local groups and services then work together to address the needs and issues raised by the pupils in the surveys.

After the surveys are completed, the partners will form local coalitions of groups and services to address the needs and issues raised by the pupils. It’s too early to say exactly what that will involve, but may include:

  • helping young people get involved in positive, confidence-building activities, like sport, music and art.
  • stopping or delaying them taking part in ‘risky’ behaviours like drinking alcohol or smoking.
  • helping families to spend more time together – having meals, talking and doing activities and
  • bringing children and their families closer together with their school and the wider community.

Young people are at the heart of this approach. As well as inviting them to share their experiences and opinions in the surveys, the partnership hopes to ensure that young people’s voices are heard loud and clear in the design and development of any proposed solutions.

A spokesperson said: “The partnership strongly believes that Planet Youth Scotland could help create the conditions that will allow young people to lead fulfilling lives and feel supported by their family, school and community, as well as reducing levels of alcohol and substance use.

“This in turn will empower our young people to make positive, informed decisions relating to their health, lifestyle and education.”

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