– An article published in 1999 sought to define peer education as something that could best be viewed as an umbrella term covering a range of different approaches. [Shiner, 1999] As such, peer programming, or peer education, peer helping, counseling, or facilitating as well as a variety of other terms, generally has meant that professionals – whether educators, program managers, health care providers, youth development specialists, or others – have decided to affect a target population by harnessing the potential power of its peers. Although often focused on adolescents and young adults, peer programming has also been used with children and with adult men and women. Regardless of the age of the target population, peer programs have been designed to encourage attitudes, knowledge, behaviors and outcomes that the community considers desirable, to discourage attitudes, behaviors and outcomes that a community considers undesirable, or to accomplish some of each.
– Advocates for Youth asked for an assessment of peer programs – programs that empower people to be agents for change among their peers. More specifically, Advocates wanted to know whether evidence existed to support the value of peer programming. Therefore, this literature review did not discriminate between peer education or helping, counseling, facilitating, etc. It was not limited to programs for youth and young adults or to programs focused on sexual health. It did not consider a program’s goals. Finally, the review did not discriminate between programs for which peer work was the only delivery mechanism or programs of which it was only one component. The important issues for this literature review were whether:
– The program included the work of the peers of the target audience.