About Planet Youth

There are currently three Planet Youth pilot sites operating in Ireland. They are Planet Youth Galway, Planet Youth Mayo and Planet Youth Roscommon. These five-year pilot programmes have been initiated and developed by the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF) with the support of partner agencies in the region. Local steering committees have been established for each of the pilot sites and these consist of funders and strategic partners, all of whom are committed to the development of Planet Youth in the region.

Planet Youth is an international evidence-based primary prevention model, developed by the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) at Reykjavik University. It was initially developed in order to reduce substance use rates amongst young people. The model uses a whole population approach and offers the opportunity to improve health and life outcomes for young people in many areas. It works by directly targeting the risk and protective factors that determine their substance use behaviours and enhancing the social environment they are growing up in. By reducing the known risk factors and strengthening the known protective factors the problems associated with adolescent substance use can be reduced or stopped before they arise.

The three pillars of the model are:
  1. Evidence-based practice
  2. Using a community-based approach
  3. Creating and maintaining a dialogue between research, policy and practice

In Iceland the model has produced great results through having a consistent focus on local community work, cross-disciplinary collaboration and investment.

The Planet Youth approach is based on five principles that provide guidance on how the community intervention process should be implemented.

Apply a primary prevention approach that is designed to enhance the social environment.
Integrate researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, and community members into a unified team dedicated to solving complex, real-world problems.
Engage and empower community members to make practical decisions using local, high-quality, accessible data and diagnostics.
Emphasise community action and embrace schools as a natural hub of community efforts to support child and adolescent health, learning, and life success.
Match the scope of the solution to the scope of the problem, including emphasising long-term intervention and investment when marshalling resources.

Risk and Protective Factors

Within the Planet Youth approach, the risk and protective factors are defined within four major domains of intervention: parents and family, leisure time, peer group and general wellbeing.

These domains are encompassed by the social environment of their school and local community and further influenced by regional and national context and policies.


The model is underpinned by data derived from the administration of the Planet Youth questionnaire. This comprehensive lifestyle questionnaire is administered to the 15-16 year olds in the target community and it examines a great many aspects of their lives. There are questions on their substance use, health, mental health, physical activity, family and school experience, internet use, bullying etc. There are 77 questions in total in the current Planet Youth questionnaire.

The data from the survey is analysed and presented with the goal of providing each community with the information that will enable them to develop data-driven interventions designed to address selected risk and protective factors. Additionally, the full dataset from the survey is supplied to the community for research purposes and for use in designing responses to other issues identified within the data. This is decided upon by the local community. The Planet Youth data allows the opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of young people and to improve the social environment they are growing up in.

Additionally, each school of sufficient size that takes part in the survey is provided with a copy of their own school report that gives an insight into the general health and wellbeing of their pupils, together with some other factors of interest at the school level.

The overall purpose of the Planet Youth model is to improve the health and happiness of young people in our communities and assist them in achieving their potential.

Meet The Team

The coordinator for the Planet Youth project is Emmet Major.

The team at the WRDATF that have worked on the development of the Planet Youth project to date are Michéal Durcan, Patrick Conway, Gary Kyne, Gillian Conway, Neil Wilson, Liam O’Loughlin and Orla Walshe. 

The steering committees members are listed below:

Michael Smyth Independent Chairperson
Michéal Durcan WRDATF / HSE
Emmet Major WRDATF / GRETB
Mary O'Sullivan HSE
Irene Murphy Youth Work Ireland Galway
Catriona Morgan Galway City Council
Ann Mallaghan Galway County Council
Morgan Mee CYPSC
Susan Forde Tusla
Paul Frecklington ARD Family Resource Centre
Sara Ní Chuirreáin GRETB
Declan Brassil Galway City Partnership
Bernadine Brady NUI Galway
Dr Diarmuid O'Donovan NUI Galway
Sarah Simkin Jigsaw
James Applegate GRD
Dr Mark Garavan Independent Chairperson
Patrick Conway WRDATF / SWMDC
Michéal Durcan WRDATF / HSE
Breda Ruane MSLETB / Mayo Youth Network
Siofa Kilcullen Mayo County Council
Siobhan Duane Tusla
Peader Gardiner Mindspace Mayo
Martin Greaney HSE
Siobhan McBrearty HSE
Gary Walsh An Garda Síochána
Charlie Lambert Mayo Sports Partnership
Jarlath Munnelly CYPSC
Daniel Hyland NAPD
Cormac Hanlon MSLETB
Ciaran Mullooly Independent Chairperson
Emmet Major WRDATF / GRETB
Eamon Hannon HSE
Mary McGrath HSE
Paul Connaughton Foróige
Ger Lacey Youth Work Ireland Midlands
Sarah Brennan Vita House
Davnet McEllin GRETB
Nollaig Whyte Roscommon County Council
Caroline Duignan CYPSC
Linda Sice Roscommon Leader Partnership
Padraic Burke An Garda Síochána