Challenges in investment

Level of investment in peer-based programs

Whilst peer-based programs can be cost effective they should never be considered a cheap alternative to implement programs and provide health education by ‘professionals’.1,2 While peer-based programs can be cost effective, they  require a high level of investment in personnel, planning, finance, research and time. To be successful programs require continued dedication, passion and expertise of individuals who implement programs and support the young people in their involvement in the initiatives.3

Only with a high level of planning, research and determination will projects see returns on investment with regard to acceptability and impact upon the target group. To achieve this, a project may require a significant amount of financial input to manage.4

There are also a number of additional organisational obstacles which can be difficult to manage by trained peers due, for example, to lack of time, fiscal or other resources or access to transport.1

Remuneration should be considered for the work of peers where there is the capacity to do so to increase feelings of self worth and provide greater project quality control.4 It is important that these issues are not overlooked in project development otherwise there is the potential for youth exploitation even if unintended.3

Project coordinators should have a high level of skills. A frequent criticism of peer-based programs is that they are added to high existing workloads, demonstrating poor understanding of the complexity of establishing and maintaining such programs. Therefore coordinators may require a range of skills which they themselves have yet to develop fully as they may have previously been participants in the peer programs themselves.3-6

Workers coordinating such programs may require skills in delivering training programs, managing budgets, an ability to relate to the target group, high level of communication skills, securing funding, writing reports, producing resources, working with stakeholders and evaluating project strategies. They may also require a high level of knowledge of health issues affecting their target groups including the research base.3-6

Therefore, peer initiatives require highly skilled personnel and adequate training and support for the peers to work well.3-6


  1. McDonald, J, Ashenden, R, Grove, J, Bodein, H, Cormack, S, Allsop, S 2000. Youth for Youth: A Project to Develop Skills and Resources for Peer Education: Final Report, National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Adelaide.
  2. Parkin, S & McKeganey, N 2000, ‘The rise and rise of peer education approaches’, Drugs; Education, Prevention and Policy, vol. 7, no. 3, p. 293.
  3. Turner, G 1999, ‘Peer support and young people’s health’, Journal of Adolescence, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 567-72.
  4. Walker, S & Avis, M 1999, Common reasons why peer education fails. Journal of Adolescence. 22(4): 573-577.
  5. Milburn, K 1995, A critical review of peer education with young people with special reference to sexual health. Health Education Research, 10: 407-20.
  6. Shiner, M 1999, Defining Peer Education. Journal of Adolescence, 22: 555-566.