Perspectives on young parents as peer educators in a teen pregnancy prevention program

Research BriefSexual & Reproductive HealthJun 27 2018

The peer education approach is a popular way to deliver sexual health information to youth. Ideally, peer educators have similar backgrounds and life experiences to the youth to whom they deliver information. Research on the success of the peer education approach in reducing risky sexual behaviors is mixed. Even so, youth prefer peer educators as facilitators of information, making this approach worthy of further exploration. Peer educators and frontline staff implementing this approach can provide useful insights about what works and what does not, which can inform researchers and program staff who plan to use a peer education approach.

EngenderHealth developed Re:MIX, a teen pregnancy and STI prevention program that pairs young parent peer educators with adult health educators to facilitate a sexual health curriculum. EngenderHealth provides training and professional development for peer educators. Child Trends evaluated the delivery of Re:MIX, in Austin, Texas, in 2017–2018. Peer educators participated in three activities: training on facilitation of Re:MIX, classroom implementation of program content, and professional development activities. Child Trends conducted focus groups and interviews with peer educators, adult health educators, and program staff to learn more about how this peer education approach worked. This brief includes summaries of their feedback, along with key quotes.

The peer educator approach delivered some key successes:

• Peer educators and adult health educators partnered effectively to deliver program content.
• Peer educators grew their personal and professional skillsets through classroom facilitation of program content.
• Peer educators demonstrated a unique ability to engage youth by telling their personal life stories.

However, future implementers might consider the following in using a peer educator approach:

• Offer support to peer educators, who may have unmet physical, emotional, and mental needs.
• Consider the pros and cons of an added professional development component for peer educators.
• Provide more training on managing a classroom and effectively facilitating lessons

Photo credit: Will Gallagher/EngenderHealth