Commentary: understanding the effects of peer education as a health promotion strategy.
The article by Ebreo et al. presents the results of an interesting study on a topic frequently raised in the health promotion literature: the use of peer educators as a strategy for enhancing adolescent health. This article examines the impact of peer education from a different perspective, by studying how peer educators were personally affected by their involvement in teaching HIV and alcohol prevention to their classmates. The authors briefly review literature that makes a compelling case that peers can play an important role in school-based health promotion programs. Particularly for young adolescents, peers can be effective role models for promoting healthy behavior, help create and reinforce social norms supporting safer behaviors, and serve as an accessible and approachable health education resource both inside and outside the classroom. For peer educators, this role can bring them higher status and acceptance from classmates and afford them new opportunities for developing social and communication skills and enhancing self-efficacy. Many researchers and health educators stop here, confident that on both conceptual and practical grounds peer education makes good sense. However, in their study, Ebreo et al. advance our thinking about the impact of peer education further. They use the same “yardstick” we use to determine the effectiveness of other school health education programs: Do we change student (peer) knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors? (excerpt)