Peer education in youth programs is popular throughout the world, with large investments made in this approach. These programs train youth in reproductive health or HIV/AIDS issues and expect these youth to convey this information to their peers. Activities vary widely in type and frequency, number and intensity of contacts, and frequency of follow-up. Settings include schools, universities, clubs, churches, street settings, workplaces, barracks, or wherever young people gather. It can be combined with other approaches such as savings groups or ‘Safe Spaces’.
Youth peer education is often undertaken because it is thought that young people are more receptive to information from their peers and that these programs are a convenient way to reach a large number of youth with information, often with volunteer staff. When done well, peer education requires intensive planning, coordination, supervision, and resources, meaning there are program costs inherent in each element of a peer education program — training, support, supervision, supplies, allowances — all of which require realistic budgeting and careful monitoring. Some researchers have raised questions about the cost effectiveness of such programs, their sustainability due to high turnover, and the impact that peers actually make on their counterparts. Nonetheless, this approach has shown some promise and continues to be widely used.
This article describes the evidence for the efficacy of a number of common intervention strategies for engaging adolescents in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) programming, focusing particularly on calling attention to what approaches have not been shown to be successful. In particular, the evidence suggests that youth centers, peer education approaches, and one-off public meetings have largely been ineffective in facilitating access to SRH services. Other approaches, such as comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly services, have mixed evidence and require considerable implementation requirements to be effective (2015).
This tool, published in 2010, provides recommendations on evidence-based youth peer education practices and a framework for quality assurance. The document features cross-cutting issues relevant to all areas of a peer education program and gives specific tips for the different phases of implementing a program, including planning, recruitment and retention of peer educators, supervision and management, and monitoring and evaluation. It also includes explanations of the available evidence on what works in peer education and real-world examples of how the guidelines are used in successful programs. The document is focused on peer education to improve sexual and reproductive health, but it can be applied more broadly to youth peer education programs generally (2010).
This report presents the evaluation results from the “Towards Economic and Sexual Reproductive Health Outcomes for Adolescent Girls” project, implemented by CARE Ethiopia in a rural area of Amhara, Ethiopia. The project sought to provide ever-married girls aged 14-19, the majority of whom are out-of-school, with effective training on sexual and reproductive health and economic empowerment using a peer-education model. The results indicate significant benefits to participants, particularly in terms of sexual and reproductive health (2014).