Saturday, 2 February 2013

PEER EDUCATION: Its necessity to Community Health Issues

Peer education is an approach to health promotion. In this approach, the community members are supported to promote health enhancing changes among themselves - the peers. Rather than expecting health professionals to always educate and attend to the thirst for knowledge among members of the public, the idea behind peer education is that those who are not trained professionals should be in the position to encourage healthy behaviour to one another.

Peer education is a term used to describe a wide range of initiatives. It is where young people of similar age, group, background, culture or social status, come together to educate and inform each other about several issues that benefits them and their immediate environment. It is an increasingly popular method of providing information in both schools and community based settings.

Peer education is not restricted to secondary school groups, it is effective in the area of information sharing among people who are not basically wired professionally in that line. Peer educators are not professional but are trained to help other young people who need information on an assorted range of health care issues. They work with their teachers - for those in secondary schools - running and implementing school based activities. Outside educational activities, they also organize group meetings with friends; it could be a music
show, drama presentation, group discussions that passes intelligent and meaningful messages across to those involved. In all, this should be fun for young people but the main aim is to be able to pass useful, meaningful and healthy tips from one person to several people.

There are lots of advantages that can be derived from peer education. It exists for both the people and the peer educators themselves, some of them are:

1. Young people feel comfortable communicating with their peers on sensitive issues such as sexuality. Young people would feel comfortable requesting for a condom from a peer educator rather than buying from a chemist or shop with an adult attendant.
2. People not only make choices based on what they know, they also use the opinion and actions of their close friends or trusted peers.
3. Peer educators can communicate and understand in a way that someone outside the age group can’t. This is a very important aspect of their work.
4. It boosts their self esteem, leadership skills, health knowledge and responsible reproductive life.
5. Peers can play an effective role in encouraging their people in their group to consider, talk honestly about and develop responsible attitudes and lifestyle.
6. Peers serve in a variety of leadership and mentoring capacities and present numerous programs to enhance their development.
7. Peer educators quickly become valued and respected student leaders in schools
and in the community.
8. Peer education reduces the prevalence of risky sexual behavior
9. Teens often find peer educators more reliable than credible adults.
10. The peer educators learn important skills like communication and facilitation.
11. Mastering extensive sexuality information relevant to their own lives.
12. People who are counseled by their peers are more likely to engage in interactive discussions.
13. Low resource cost; since they often use volunteers and have almost no overhead, peer education programs can be run very cheaply.
14. Peer educators often gain long term benefits from their experience. Employment experience, responsible reproductive health behavior.
15. People who live around us suffer from a lot of problems and they would rather discuss with a known friendly neighbour than die in silence.
16. It can go a long way in fostering fulfilling relationships between members of a community.

A peer education program is a way of improving services by spreading the needed information throughout a community. Through such programs, people can gain the knowledge and skills that are valued and important to strengthen their communities, advocate for themselves and the need to assert more control over their lives.

It doesn’t cost so much to start or run a peer education program but there some basic things to put into consideration. They include the following:

1. Plan the program with the focus on the community, rather than on what you want to do.
2. The program has to be the one that fits the needs of the community and not otherwise.
3. What is the actual purpose of the program?
4. Who are the target population?
5. What will be the definition of peers?
6. Are there successful and failed examples of this type of program in the community?
7. Recruit people who share the passion and are able to give themselves voluntarily to the cause. In doing this, it is important to get people who have excellent communicating skills.

Effective peer education can go a long way in helping on several health issues. Peer educators can also carry out campaigns and advocacy on important issues. They can be trained and used for immunization exercise, heart to heart counseling in youth friendly centers, HIV/AIDS prevention and control campaigns, cancer awareness and other related issues. This is really cheap to run and will save cost.

In some cases peer educators can be given stipends or provided with certificates of participation or recognition to serve as motivation. This will in turn encourage them to fully participate and be devoted. There is always joy when you can help save another person's life.

Opeyemi Fasetan
@flofash on twitter


  1. hmmm you have said more than enough.
    I love this number no7... IT IS THE TRUTH bcos it has worked for me so many times ---> Peer educators quickly become valued and respected student leaders in schools and in the community.

    Great work my beautiful sister.

  2. Ope, you've done great justice to the topic and I hope people wld take advantage of peer education, as it clearly has so many merits and its impact cannot be over emphasized. As a certified peer educator, I've seen it transform projects beyond the scope that ordinary awareness would. Very useful in advocacy on HIV, Maternal / Infant healthcare, general health practices etc. Kudos again.

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