1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture conducted youth research from 1992 to 1998. The Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis (ICSRA) was founded in 1999 in collaboration with the Ministry and municipalities throughout Iceland and conducts youth research via the Ministry‘s initiative.
Since 2000, ICSRA has conducted a national program of surveys, Youth in Iceland which consists of extensive data collection and information on family and adolescent welfare.
The national program was designed to inform the need for population-wide primary-prevention through research with the goal to stop and reverse observed increases in adolescent substance use (see Sigfusdottir et al., 2009).
Results of Youth in Iceland
ICSRA’s Youth in Iceland surveys covers 5th to 7th graders in all primary schools in the Iceland, 8th to 10th graders in secondary schools and all 16 to 20 year old high school students in the country.
A set of core questions covers a range of demographic and social variables, including family structure, parental and peer support, structured and unstructured activities and past times, substance use, academic achievement and psycho-social adjustment.
The results from the Youth in Iceland study are used for two distinct purposes:
- For scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals
- As basis for local prevention work amongst children and adolescents in municipalities across Iceland.
Results from the ongoing Youth in Iceland surveys showed that the substance use among Icelandic adolescents declined substantially over the 11-year period from 1995 to 2006 (Sigfusdottir et al. 2008).
Numerous municipalities throughout Iceland have used results from theYouth in Iceland surveys as a frame of reference in matters regarding youth. In 2007, Reykjavík introduced the Leisure Card, an annual grant for children and adolescents aged 6-18 to take part in organised recreational activities. More municipalities in Iceland have followed this example and introduced similar grants.
The research output of ICSRA has been published in peer-reviewed journals, covering a wide spectrum of important health and social issues concerning adolescents.
This includes smoking and alcohol use (Kristjansson et al. 2008b, 2009c; Sigfusdottir et al. 2008c); school satisfaction, health behaviour, and academic achievement (Kristjansson et al. 2008a, 2009a, 2009b; Sigfusdottir et al. 2007; Thorlindsson et al. 2007); physical activity and participation in sports (Eidsdottir et al. 2008); adolescent emotional well-being (Sigfusdottir et al. 2008); suicidal behaviour (Bernburg et al. 2009; Sigfusdottir et al. 2008b) and studies of custodial care of adolescents (Gudjonsson et al. 2007).
ICSRA works closely with governmental and non-governmental organisations in Iceland and abroad and provides expert and logistical support for youth research and intervention projects.
The Youth in Iceland data is collected in February each year and the results are presented in practical reports issued in April of the same year. Each municipality and school participating in the project receives a report on their local situation.
The Government does not typically fund evaluations of its youth related programs.