School-based peer education interventions to improve health: a global systematic review of effectiveness

Literature Reviews
p. 1-13
Periodical title
BMC Public Health, 22, 2247 (2022)

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.

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