Peer education is an approach growing in popularity across school contexts, possibly due to adolescents preferring to seek help for health-related concerns from their peers rather than adults or professionals. Peer education interventions cover a wide range of health areas but their overall effectiveness remains unclear. This review aims to summarise the effectiveness of existing peer-led health interventions implemented in schools worldwide. A total of 2125 studies were identifed after the initial search and 73 articles were included in the review. The majority of papers evaluated interventions focused on sex education/HIV prevention (n =23), promoting healthy lifestyles (n =17) and alcohol, smoking and substance use (n =16). Papers mainly reported peer learner outcomes (67/73, 91.8%), with only six papers (8.2%) focussing solely on peer educator outcomes and five papers (6.8%) examining both peer learner and peer educator outcomes. Of the 67 papers reporting peer learner outcomes, 35/67 (52.2%) showed evidence of effectiveness, 8/67 (11.9%) showed mixed findings and 24/67 (35.8%) found limited or no evidence of effectiveness. Of the 11 papers reporting peer educator outcomes, 4/11 (36.4%) showed evidence of effectiveness, 2/11 (18.2%) showed mixed findings and 5/11 (45.5%) showed limited or no evidence of effectiveness. Study quality varied greatly with many studies rated as poor quality, mainly due to unrepresentative samples and incomplete data.
BMC Public Health, 22, 2247 (2022)
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