Tips for Incorporating Peer-Based Strategies in Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) Programs

Tips for Incorporating Peer-Based Strategies in Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) Programs

OPRE Report No. #2023-291
Published: Oct 31, 2023
Publisher: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Key Findings

This brief shares five tips to help SRAE and similar programs develop and implement peer-based strategies. Tips include:

  1. Build a coalition to support a peer-based strategy. Programs should consider forming a coalition of community organizations, schools, interested community leaders, and youth. This coalition can help program providers develop and implement a peer-based intervention or strategy—for example, by helping to create buy-in among interested parties or resource sharing. Program can choose from a variety of resources to help them establish partnerships within the coalition.
  2. Understand what makes an effective peer. Programs should work with their coalition and other trusted community members to determine what characteristics likely make a peer effective. Characteristics to consider include lived experience and motivations for becoming a peer.
  3. Design a recruitment process to attract and vet ideal candidates. Programs should consider creating a dynamic process for recruiting and selecting potential peers that (1) includes attractive program benefits for youth, (2) seeks nominations from a broad range of people, and (3) uses a multimodal selection process.
  4. Form partnerships between adult and peer staff. Programs should strive to build authentic relationships between adult and peer staff. This may be accomplished by co-training adults and peers together.
  5. Implement dynamic youth-led activities. Programs should consider selecting curriculum or activities that call for building trust and relationships; are youth led; and are fun and interactive.

A central goal of Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) programs is to promote positive youth development. Peer-based strategies in SRAE programs hold significant promise in achieving this goal. Research has consistently demonstrated that peer-based strategies or interventions can be more relatable and credible for youth, as peers share many similarities. Peers become an important developmental influence in adolescence — in both positive and negative ways. Peer-based strategies seek to harness the constructive aspects of peer influence to promote positive youth development. SRAE programs may be interested in developing and implementing peer-based strategies but might need information on how best to do so.

The purpose of this tip sheet is to provide tips for SRAE and similar programs that seek to design and implement peer-based strategies. We developed these tips as part of Sexual Risk Avoidance Education National Evaluation (SRAENE)—a national evaluation of SRAE programs that included a formative study in understanding how SRAE might use peers. We identified the tips in this sheet based on a technical working group meeting —which included SRAE grantees and other experts— and a targeted review of the literature.

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