Jón Sigfússon, chairman of the Planet Youth board of directors, met with north eastern Ontairo health units in February to help implement Planet Youth programs in communities. Photo provided

Young people in Timmins will soon be supported by a program from Iceland.

Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) has signed on to work with Planet Youth, a substance use prevention organization, to build up community support around youth in the city.

“Last week marks our official partnership and our collaboration with the group to bring the Icelandic Prevention Model (IPM) to Timmins,” said Kaiden Hardy, the PHU’s health promoter. “The aim is to shift the social environment the youth are growing up in.”

Planet Youth’s program focuses on evidence in the community and how that can be applied to find the best ways to address issues around addiction and substance use for young people.

Hardy said that PHU will be collecting the data this year through partnerships with the school boards in the area.

They’re hoping to have a better understanding by the beginning of the 2024-25 school year.

“In order to understand the scope of the solution, we have to understand the scope of the program,” she said. “So this data tool with Planet Youth was designed to survey our youth on risk and protective factors.”

The survey gets data on things like family situations, attitudes toward substance use and community involvement.

The survey will be repeated every two years to reevaluate as the program progresses.

“As a community we can get together and decide how we are going to act, and that regular data collection allows us to reevaluate, change direction,” she said.

She said that this data will be far more useful than the numbers they currently have access to.

“The problem in Northern Ontario is that there’s truly a lack of data for the region, we’re often grouped with the rest of Ontario,” she said. “That doesn’t really help us understand the situation or get the scope of the status of substance use in our region, especially in youth.”

In February, representatives from Planet Youth met with the PHU and other northern health units.

Hardy said their approach is evidence-based, and tailored to the community.

“We’d been exploring the IPM for years,” said Hardy. “So the timing kind of lined up with our northeast health units, and North Bay, Timiskaming and Porcupine were looking at this model.”

Those meetings gauged the interest and uptake possible in those communities.

“It wasn’t a matter of can we bring this model to our community, but how are we going to do it,” she said.

As the work will be community-led, she said that partnerships with local organizations, parents, and others who want to help are going to be key to shaping the city’s approach.

“This does require so much teamwork, and long-term vision and commitment, because it requires a shift in thinking,” said Hardy. “Even though some of our efforts can have some positive effect in the short term, the most impactful ones are going to occur over time.”

Planet Youth is already set up in four Canadian communities, including Calgary, and Lanark County.

It is operating in 16 countries all over the world.

The Icelandic Prevention Method strengthens protective factors and builds healthy community environments for youth, with a focus on factors like family and friends involvement, extracurricular activities and school involvement.

“It is true primary prevention, and when I say that, I mean we’re working to stop problems before they even start,” she said. “We’re addressing the root causes, not the symptoms.”

The reports that will come out of the surveys will be open access so that any partners can access the information.

Hardy said she’s looking forward to building relationships and engagement as the program grows and getting people involved, and plans for community events and outreach are in the works.

“We want the entire community to be involved in this,” she said.

By Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 17, 2023 at 13:09

This item reprinted with permission from   TimminsToday.com   Timmins, Ontario

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