Peer education

What is it?

In a nutshell, peer education can be described as learning from one’s peers.1 It is the process of sharing information among members of a specific community or group of young people to achieve positive outcomes for health and well-being.2

In relation to young people, peer education is based on the idea that it is possible to capture the organically occurring impact of peers within their own networks to influence young people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour.2

It is often described in the context of youth programs as ‘education of young people by young people’.1

How does it work?

Peer education programs train members of particular societal networks to become ‘experts’ in a certain subject. They then become peer educators and are encouraged to pass information to others in order to generate change among other members of the same group.3,4

By moving in ‘like’ networks, individuals help each other to gain knowledge and to learn in the process.2

Common ways peer education is used

Peer education is a popular strategy to disseminate accurate information and encourage activities that promote health with young people.5

Peer education encompasses a broad range of activities including informal (e.g. social interactions during everyday conversation, youth performance media) and formal (e.g. structured educational sessions) influences.3,5

Peer education commonly aims to influence individual knowledge, attitudes, beliefs or behaviours and is often applied in context of alcohol and other drug education,  prevention of sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses and sexual and reproductive health promotion.4

Examples of peer education program approaches

Talking Realities – young parenting: a peer education program

SPEEK Peer Education Program

Holroyd Peer Education Program – Depression

Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia – STI/BBV Peer Education Program


  1. McDonald, J, Roche, A, Durbridge, M & Skinner, N 2003, Peer Education: From Evidence to Practice: An alcohol and other drugs primer, National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Adelaide.
  2. Topping, KJ 2005, ‘Trends in Peer Learning’, Educational Psychology, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 631-645.
  3. 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.
  4. UNAIDS 1999, Peer Education and HIV/AIDS: Concepts, uses and challenges, Report of a Consultation, UNAIDS, Geneva.
  5. Backett-Milburn, K & Wilson, S 2000, ‘Understanding peer education: insights from a process evaluation’, Health Education Research, Theory & Practice, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 85-96.