Project Northland


Project Northland is a community-wide, multi-level, multi-year intervention for youth that includes strategies to reduce both the supply and demand of alcohol. This program includes classroom curricula, peer leadership and extracurricular activities, parent involvement, and community activism.


  • To promote alcohol and drug resistance skills among youth
  • To influence community attitudes and norms about underage drinking
  • To reduce social and commercial access to alcohol among youth

Typical Elements

Phase I (grades 6–8):

  • ​Students and parents are engaged in conversations to encourage individual adolescents not to use alcohol. Activities include (Hazelden, 2013, pp. 9 – 10):
    • Using program materials to facilitate conversations between students and their families at home
    • Conducting educational activities at school and at home
    • Inviting family and community members to view student presentations on alcohol prevention topics at school
  • A classroom curriculum (e.g., Slick Tracy, Amazing Alternatives), led by teachers and students, on how to identify and resist pressures to use alcohol. Components include (Hazelden, 2013, pp. 9 – 10):
    • Facilitating discussions about the negative consequences of drinking
    • Instructing participants about false messages in alcohol advertising and the dangers of drinking and driving
    • Creating time capsules that contain participants’ goals and intentions to avoid alcohol use
    • Practicing strategies that participants can use to decline or avoid alcohol use in different situations
  • Youth action teams facilitated by a local adult coordinator and/or adult volunteers. Activities might include (Perry et al., 1996):
    • Attending leadership training
    • Creating student newsletters
    • Planning alcohol-free events (e.g., prom, graduation)
    • Developing activities to support regional and/or national alcohol prevention campaigns (e.g., Alcohol Awareness Month)
    • Participating in community events, such as festivals and fairs (e.g., setting up booths to raise awareness about underage drinking)
    • Promoting healthy community and family policies related to alcohol use
  • Local action teams, consisting of parents and community members interested in preventing underage drinking and its consequences, to complement the work of the youth action teams. Activities might include (Perry et al., 1996):
    • Educating stakeholders about responsible beverage server training for local alcohol outlets
    • Implementing programs and strategies that promote non-use messages in the community (e.g., “gold card” programs in which local businesses provide discounts to students who pledge to remain free of alcohol and other drugs)
    • Collaborating with law enforcement to conduct compliance checks in off-premise outlets

Interim phase (grade 9):

  • Shifting Gears is implemented, a five-session classroom program that focuses on the pressures to drink and drive, tactics of alcohol advertising, and ways to deal with those influences (Perry et al., 2002).

Note: No program activities during grade 10.

Phase II (grades 11–12): 

  • Class Action is implemented, a six-session classroom curriculum that uses a “mock trial” format; students role-play legal cases involving underage alcohol use to explore the consequences of and community’s responsibility for underage drinking (Perry et al., 2000). Discussion about alcohol use is encouraged between youth and parents by:

    • Designing postcards for parents with tips on communicating with teens (Perry et al., 2000)
    • Implementing the Sound OFF campaign where students answer discussion questions with their parents and return their answers to school to be eligible for a drawing for $500 (Williams & Perry, 1998)
  • A social marketing campaign (e.g., using calendars, newsletters, and posters) to discourage young adults of legal drinking age from providing alcohol to youth under age 21 (Perry et al., 2000).
  • Ongoing support for the youth action and local action teams formed during Phase I, with the goal of having them continue to lead prevention efforts at school and in the community (Williams & Perry, 1998; Perry et al., 2000).


  • Middle or junior high school students
  • High school students
  • Parents or guardians
  • Community members


After Phase I:

Compared to control group participants, Project Northland participants have reported (Perry et al., 1996):

  • Reductions in intention to use alcohol   
  • Reductions in alcohol use during the past week
  • Reductions in alcohol use during the past month
  • Reductions in peer influence to use alcohol
  • Increases in ability to resist alcohol at a party/dance or when offered by a boyfriend/girlfriend

After Phase II:

  • ​Compared to control group participants, Project Northland participants have reported reductions in (Perry et al., 2002):
    • Growth rate in alcohol use
    • Binge drinking
  • A study that examined the effects of individual components of the Project Northland program on self-reported adolescent alcohol use found that the (Stigler et al., 2006):
    • Extracurricular activities (for planners only) and parent component were associated with the strongest effects.
    • Classroom curriculum component was associated with moderate effects.
    • Community activism component had no measurable effect.
  • Compared to control group participants, participants in a Project Northland adaptation for urban, low-income, and multi-ethnic settings reported no difference in alcohol use (Komro et al., 2008).


Project Northland and Class Action


Annie E. Casey Foundation: Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development  

RAND Corporation: Promising Practices Network


Hazelden. (2013). Alcohol Prevention Works! Center City, MN: Hazelden. Retrieved from

Komro, K. A., Perry, C. L., Veblen‐Mortenson, S., Farbakhsh, K., Toomey, T. L., Stigler, M. H., . . .  & Williams, C. L. (2008). Outcomes from a randomized controlled trial of a multi‐component alcohol use preventive intervention for urban youth: Project Northland Chicago. Addiction, 103(4), 606–618.

Perry, C. L., Williams, C. L., Veblen-Mortenson, S., Toomey, T. L., Komro, K. A., Anstine, P. S., . . . & Wolfson, M. (1996). Project Northland: Outcomes of a communitywide alcohol use prevention program during early adolescence. American Journal of Public Health, 86(7), 956–965.

Perry, C. L., Williams, C. L., Komro, K. A., Veblen-Mortenson, S., Forster, J. L., Bernstein-Lachter, R., . . . & McGovern, P. (2000). Project Northland high school interventions: Community action to reduce adolescent alcohol use. Health Education & Behavior, 27(1), 29–49.

Perry, C. L., Williams, C. L., Komro, K. A., Veblen-Mortenson, S., Stigler, M. H., Munson, K. A., . . . Forster, J. L. (2002). Project Northland: Long-term outcomes of community action to reduce adolescent alcohol use. Health Education Research, 17(1), 117–132.

Stigler, M. H., Perry, C. L., Komro, K. A., Cudeck, R., & Williams, C. L. (2006). Teasing apart a multiple component approach to adolescent alcohol prevention: What worked in Project Northland? Preventive Science, 7(3), 269–280.

Williams, C. L., & Perry, C. L. (1998). Lessons from Project Northland: Preventing alcohol problems during adolescence. Alcohol Health & Research World, 22(2), 107–116.