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Peer-Led Health and Wellbeing Interventions: Feasibility, Effectiveness and Future Potential

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2022) | Viewed by 38467

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Centre for Health Services Research, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4102, Australia
Interests: ageing; frailty; quality of life; quality of care; geriatrics; aged care; function; sedentary time; well-being interventions

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Centre for Health Services Research, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4102, Australia
Interests: sedentary behaviour; sitting time; lifestyle interventions; telemedicine; telehealth; intervention design; wellbeing; self-leadership

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It is well known that health and wellbeing interventions, particularly, physical activity interventions, are feasible, safe and effective for the majority of population groups to improve their overall health. Decades of research, underpinned by various theories of behaviour change and research translation, have provided us with a good understanding of how behaviour can be influenced and modified. However, while short-term changes in behaviours, ranging from increased physical activity and improved diet and nutrition to increased water intake and sleep quality, have been consistently shown, long-term changes prove harder to sustain. Other challenges include low engagement and retention and resource-intensive and researcher/expert-led interventions that are expensive and difficult to sustain for many organisations.

Peer-led interventions are an emerging trend and have shown promise in being able to address some of the issues described above. Participants or patient groups often respond more favourably to people they can relate to (for example, peers of a similar age or same gender, ethnicity and social background). Peer-led interventions may also be more cost-effective and sustainable in the long term. This Special Issue seeks to bring together a group of research papers that address the feasibility, effectiveness and future potential of peer-led interventions, ranging from single-activity (e.g., exercise) to multi-activity holistic wellbeing interventions. Papers concerning any age or population group and setting are encouraged.

Dr. Natasha Reid
Dr. Maike Neuhaus
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • interventions
  • peer-led
  • physical activity
  • well-being
  • quality of life
  • feasibility
  • effectiveness
  • cost-effectiveness
  • health

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Research

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13 pages, 321 KiB  
Article
Peer Support at the Intersection of Disability and Opioid (Mis)Use: Key Stakeholders Provide Essential Considerations
by Joanne Nicholson, Anne Valentine, Emily Ledingham and Sharon Reif
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(15), 9664; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159664 - 05 Aug 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1721
Abstract
Individuals with disabilities may experience higher rates of opioid/substance use disorders (OUD/SUD) than other individuals and are likely vulnerable to unmet treatment needs. Peer support may be beneficial to these individuals, given the evidence of benefits in target populations with similar needs and [...] Read more.
Individuals with disabilities may experience higher rates of opioid/substance use disorders (OUD/SUD) than other individuals and are likely vulnerable to unmet treatment needs. Peer support may be beneficial to these individuals, given the evidence of benefits in target populations with similar needs and the potential for overcoming barriers to treatment suggested in the available literature. The objective of this exploratory study was to specify essential considerations in adapting peer support for this population. Diverse key stakeholders (n = 16) were interviewed to explore the experiences, needs, and available supports for individuals with disabilities and OUD/SUD. A Peer Support Work Group including members with lived experience advised each component of the study. Semi-structured interview data were content analyzed and memos generated to summarize themes related to the research question. Participants reported extensive professional and personal experience in human services, disability, and recovery. Emergent themes included the importance of accessibility and model fit, the notion of “peerness” and peer match, and essential aspects of peer recruitment, training, and support. An accessible, acceptable, effective model of peer support requires particular attention to the needs of this diverse and varied population, and the contexts in which they are identified, referred, and engaged in services. Full article
13 pages, 677 KiB  
Article
The Feasibility of a Training Program for Peers with Severe Mental Illness to Provide One-to-One Services in Taiwan: A Pilot Study
by Kan-Yuan Cheng and Chia-Feng Yen
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(15), 9124; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159124 - 26 Jul 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1283
Abstract
Background: In Taiwan, services provided by patients’ peers in the mental health care system are still lacking. Therefore, this study aimed to develop a community setting model by a training program for severe mental illness (SMI) patients’ peers that also have SMI in [...] Read more.
Background: In Taiwan, services provided by patients’ peers in the mental health care system are still lacking. Therefore, this study aimed to develop a community setting model by a training program for severe mental illness (SMI) patients’ peers that also have SMI in Taiwan. Method: This training program comprised of 13-h lectures, 15-h practice classes, and an eight-week internship. In 2018 and 2019, the trainees provided one-to-one services to service users with SMI during the internship at a halfway house. The satisfaction and outcomes among all participants were measured in this training course. Results: The total mean satisfaction score in the training course for trainees (10 items, n = 13) and internship services for service users (12 items, n = 29) were 4.7 ± 0.4 and 4.6 ± 0.5, respectively. Among the trainees, 11 demonstrated improved Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale-18 (BPRS-18), Chinese Health Questionnaire-12 (CHQ-12), and Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores after the whole training course. Among the 29 service users, their scores in the BPRS-18 and CHQ-12 decreased, whereas their scores in the GAF increased significantly under the internship service. Conclusion: In this pilot study, the trainees and service users who received internship services felt satisfied. The service providers and users with SMI both showed better clinical outcomes. Full article
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20 pages, 787 KiB  
Article
National Implementation of a Group-Based Program Promoting Patient Engagement and Peer Support in the Veterans Health Administration: A Multi-Methods Evaluation
by Connor Drake, Melissa H. Abadi, Heather R. Batchelder, Bonnie O. Richard, Laura E. Balis and David Rychener
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(14), 8333; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19148333 - 07 Jul 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1897
Abstract
Evidence-based approaches promoting patient engagement and chronic illness self-management include peer support, shared decision-making, and education. Designed based on these components, Taking Charge of My Life and Health (TCMLH) is a group-based, ‘Whole Person’ care program promoting mental and physical self-care and patient [...] Read more.
Evidence-based approaches promoting patient engagement and chronic illness self-management include peer support, shared decision-making, and education. Designed based on these components, Taking Charge of My Life and Health (TCMLH) is a group-based, ‘Whole Person’ care program promoting mental and physical self-care and patient empowerment. Despite evidence of effectiveness, little is known about implementation for TCMLH and similar programs. In this first-of-its-kind, multi-methods evaluation conducted between 2015–2020, we report on implementation strategies and intervention adaptations with a contextual analysis to describe TCMLH translational efforts in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities across the United States. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected via listening sessions with TCMLH facilitators, open-ended survey responses from facilitators, and quarterly reports from clinical implementation sites. We used the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) to analyze, interpret, and organize qualitative findings, and descriptive statistics to analyze quantitative data. Most TCMLH programs (58%) were adapted from the original format, including changes to the modality, duration, or frequency of sessions. Findings suggest these adaptations occurred in response to barriers including space, staffing constraints, and participant recruitment. Overall, findings highlight practical insights for improving the implementation of TCMLH, including recommendations for additional adaptations and tailored implementation strategies to promote its reach. Full article
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18 pages, 1389 KiB  
Article
Applying a User Centred Design Approach to Optimise a Workplace Initiative for Wide-Scale Implementation
by Ana D. Goode, Matthew Frith, Sarah A. Hyne, Jennifer Burzic and Genevieve N. Healy
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(13), 8096; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19138096 - 01 Jul 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1805
Abstract
Translation of an effective research intervention into a program able to be implemented in practice typically requires adaptations to ensure the outcomes can be achieved within the applied setting. User centred design (UCD) methodologies can support these iterative adaptations, with this approach being [...] Read more.
Translation of an effective research intervention into a program able to be implemented in practice typically requires adaptations to ensure the outcomes can be achieved within the applied setting. User centred design (UCD) methodologies can support these iterative adaptations, with this approach being particularly well suited to peer-led interventions, due to a focus on usability. We describe and reflect on the UCD approach that was applied to optimise an online, peer-led workplace health promotion initiative (BeUpstanding: ACTRN12617000682347) to be suitable for wide-scale implementation and evaluation. Optimisation was aligned against the indicators of the RE-AIM (reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, maintenance) framework, with UCD methodologies (discovery interviews, persona and scenario mapping, facilitated workshops, surveys and prototyping) employed to enhance the program according to all RE-AIM dimensions. The core team (content experts, implementation scientist, interaction designer, software developer, business developer) worked closely with policy and practice partners and end users (workplace champions, management and staff) to iteratively develop and test across the RE-AIM indicators. This description and reflection of the process of applying UCD and the RE-AIM framework to the optimisation of BeUpstanding is intended to provide guidance for other behaviour change research adaptations into practice. Full article
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10 pages, 315 KiB  
Article
Investigating the Challenges and Benefits of Engaging in Peer Support via Videoconferencing for People with Spinal Cord Injury
by Linda Barclay and Aislinn Lalor
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(8), 4585; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19084585 - 11 Apr 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2068
Abstract
Background: One of the greatest challenges faced by people following a spinal cord injury is reintegrating into the community. Peer mentors are people who have had shared experiences of disadvantage and distress and have successfully navigated their way through the associated challenges to [...] Read more.
Background: One of the greatest challenges faced by people following a spinal cord injury is reintegrating into the community. Peer mentors are people who have had shared experiences of disadvantage and distress and have successfully navigated their way through the associated challenges to lead meaningful lives. Historically, peer mentoring services have been predominantly delivered via face-to-face interactions. Little is known about the experience of people with spinal cord injury engaging in online peer support services, and what the challenges and benefits are of this mode of delivery. Methods: An anonymous online survey consisting of closed and open response questions was used to collect data. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively and qualitative data were analysed using inductive content analysis. Results: Positive benefits of engaging in peer support via videoconferencing included convenience and social connectedness. The main barriers were problems with Wi-Fi and internet connections, inconsistencies between platforms and having to learn new platforms. Even though responses were mixed when comparing videoconferencing to face-to-face peer support, most participants felt socially connected. Conclusions: Addressing barriers through the provision of appropriate technology, and targeted and individualised assistance, is important to facilitate uptake of online peer support for people with spinal cord injury. Full article
14 pages, 330 KiB  
Article
Taking Care of Friends: The Implementation Evaluation of a Peer-Focused School Program Using First Aid to Reduce Adolescent Risk-Taking and Injury
by Lisa Buckley, Mary Sheehan, Kelly Dingli, Bianca Reveruzzi and Veronica Horgan
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(24), 13030; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182413030 - 10 Dec 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2168
Abstract
Injury is a leading cause of adolescent deaths, with risk-taking associated with a sizeable proportion of injuries and many of those risks undertaken in the presence of peers or with peers’ knowledge. Novel ways to promote safety are required and using the peer-relationship [...] Read more.
Injury is a leading cause of adolescent deaths, with risk-taking associated with a sizeable proportion of injuries and many of those risks undertaken in the presence of peers or with peers’ knowledge. Novel ways to promote safety are required and using the peer-relationship may be an important mechanism for prevention. This study reports on the implementation evaluation of the Skills for Preventing Injury in Youth (SPIY) program. SPIY is a high-school program designed to reduce injury by encouraging peers to look out for one another and prevent risk-taking, complemented by developing peer helping and first aid skills as well as school connectedness. 152 students and 12 teachers who delivered SPIY participated in separate 30 min focus groups and reported on students’ understanding of peer protective behaviour and the program implementation (adherence, dose, quality of program delivery, and participant responsiveness). Students reported on many approaches to protecting friends and both students and teachers reported they found the program interesting, interactive, and able to be delivered. Peer protection messages were relevant and acceptable to teachers and students in a risk-taking harm reduction program to reduce adolescent injury. Full article
24 pages, 1132 KiB  
Article
Peer Support and Overdose Prevention Responses: A Systematic ‘State-of-the-Art’ Review
by Fiona Mercer, Joanna Astrid Miler, Bernie Pauly, Hannah Carver, Kristina Hnízdilová, Rebecca Foster and Tessa Parkes
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(22), 12073; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182212073 - 17 Nov 2021
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 5073
Abstract
Overdose prevention for people who use illicit drugs is essential during the current overdose crisis. Peer support is a process whereby individuals with lived or living experience of a particular phenomenon provide support to others by explicitly drawing on these experiences. This review [...] Read more.
Overdose prevention for people who use illicit drugs is essential during the current overdose crisis. Peer support is a process whereby individuals with lived or living experience of a particular phenomenon provide support to others by explicitly drawing on these experiences. This review provides a systematic search and evidence synthesis of peer support within overdose prevention interventions for people who use illicit drugs. A systematic search of six databases (CINAHL, SocINDEX, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Scopus, and Web of Knowledge) was conducted in November 2020 for papers published in English between 2000 and 2020. Following screening and full-text review, 46 papers met criteria and were included in this review. A thematic analysis approach was used to synthesize themes. Important findings include: the value of peers in creating trusted services; the diversity of peers’ roles; the implications of barriers on peer-involved overdose prevention interventions; and the stress and trauma experienced by peers. Peers play a pivotal role in overdose prevention interventions for people who use illicit drugs and are essential to the acceptability and feasibility of such services. However, peers face considerable challenges within their roles, including trauma and burnout. Future interventions must consider how to support and strengthen peer roles in overdose settings. Full article
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13 pages, 1893 KiB  
Article
Online HIV Self-Testing (HIVST) Dissemination by an Australian Community Peer HIV Organisation: A Scalable Way to Increase Access to Testing, Particularly for Suboptimal Testers
by Sara Fiona Elisabeth Bell, Jime Lemoire, Joseph Debattista, Andrew M. Redmond, Glen Driver, Izriel Durkin, Luke Coffey, Melissa Warner, Chris Howard, Owain David Williams, Charles F. Gilks and Judith Ann Dean
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(21), 11252; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111252 - 26 Oct 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2556
Abstract
HIV self-testing (HIVST) introduces opportunities for screening in non-conventional settings, and addresses known testing barriers. This study involved the development and evaluation of a free online HIVST dissemination service hosted by a peer-led, community-based organisation with on-site, peer-facilitated HIV testing, and established referral [...] Read more.
HIV self-testing (HIVST) introduces opportunities for screening in non-conventional settings, and addresses known testing barriers. This study involved the development and evaluation of a free online HIVST dissemination service hosted by a peer-led, community-based organisation with on-site, peer-facilitated HIV testing, and established referral and support programs for people newly diagnosed with HIV to determine whether this model was feasible and acceptable for engaging MSM, particularly among infrequent and naive HIV-testers, or those living in remote and rural areas. Between December 2016 and April 2018, 927 kits were ordered by 794 individuals, the majority of whom were men who have sex with men (MSM) (62%; 494), having condomless sex (50%; 392), or living outside a major city (38%; 305). Very few (5%; 39) sought the available pre-test peer contact, despite 45% (353) being naive HIV-testers. This study demonstrates that online HIVST dissemination is acceptable and feasible for engaging at-risk suboptimal testers, including those unwilling to test elsewhere (19%; 47/225). With half (50%; 403) unwilling to buy a kit, our study suggests that HIVST will need to be subsidized (cost-neutral to users) to enhance population coverage and access. Full article
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11 pages, 2069 KiB  
Article
Usability Testing of a Mobile Health Application for Self-Management of Serious Mental Illness in a Norwegian Community Mental Health Setting
by Marianne Storm, Hilde Marie Hunsbedt Fjellså, Jorunn N. Skjærpe, Amanda L. Myers, Stephen J. Bartels and Karen L. Fortuna
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(16), 8667; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18168667 - 17 Aug 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 3081
Abstract
Background: For digital tools to have high usability and fit service users’ health needs and socio-environmental context, it is important to explore usability with end-users and identify facilitators and barriers to uptake. Objective: To conduct user testing of the smartphone health application, PeerTECH, [...] Read more.
Background: For digital tools to have high usability and fit service users’ health needs and socio-environmental context, it is important to explore usability with end-users and identify facilitators and barriers to uptake. Objective: To conduct user testing of the smartphone health application, PeerTECH, in a Norwegian community mental health setting. Methods: Semistructured interviews and usability testing of the PeerTECH app using the Think-Aloud approach and task analysis among 11 people (three individuals with a serious mental illness, two peer support workers, and six mental health professionals). Results: Study participants perceived PeerTECH as a relevant tool to support self-management of their mental and physical health conditions, and they provided valuable feedback on existing features as well as suggestions for adaptions to the Norwegian context. The task analysis revealed that PeerTECH is easy to manage for service users and peer support workers. Conclusions: Adapting the PeerTECH smartphone app to the Norwegian context may be a viable and useful tool to support individuals with serious mental illness. Full article
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Review

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15 pages, 382 KiB  
Review
A Narrative Review of Peer-Led Positive Psychology Interventions: Current Evidence, Potential, and Future Directions
by Maike Neuhaus, Tarli Young, Laura J. Ferris, Charlotte L. M. Grimmel and Natasha Reid
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(13), 8065; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19138065 - 30 Jun 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2828
Abstract
Positive psychology interventions are an effective means for cultivating flourishing, addressing low levels of wellbeing, and preventing languishing. Peer-led interventions can be a particularly advantageous delivery method of positive psychology interventions, as participants tend to respond more favourably to people that they can [...] Read more.
Positive psychology interventions are an effective means for cultivating flourishing, addressing low levels of wellbeing, and preventing languishing. Peer-led interventions can be a particularly advantageous delivery method of positive psychology interventions, as participants tend to respond more favourably to people that they can identify with personally. Such interventions have been applied in a variety of settings and populations, but the literature on peer-led positive psychology interventions has not yet been summarised. This paper provides a narrative overview of peer-led positive psychology interventions. We reviewed relevant peer-led interventions, assessed the available evidence on their effectiveness, and highlighted promising opportunities for peer-led positive psychology interventions. We found that the majority of the studies were observational in design but showed a high level of acceptability for participants across the reviewed domains. In particular, schools, workplaces, the aged care sector, and community settings are noted as promising target domains for these interventions. However, more studies—particularly high-quality research—will be needed to comprehensively test the effectiveness of peer-led positive psychology interventions. We discuss opportunities for future research in this field. Full article
19 pages, 817 KiB  
Review
Peer Education and Peer Counselling for Health and Well-Being: A Review of Reviews
by Keith James Topping
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(10), 6064; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19106064 - 17 May 2022
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 4253
Abstract
Peer education and peer counselling for health and wellbeing have been recognized as complementary approaches to professional intervention for over 50 years, but it is relatively recently that research into effects has become adequate. Potentially, they have advantages in reaching where professionals cannot, [...] Read more.
Peer education and peer counselling for health and wellbeing have been recognized as complementary approaches to professional intervention for over 50 years, but it is relatively recently that research into effects has become adequate. Potentially, they have advantages in reaching where professionals cannot, but it has not been clear if that potential is fulfilled, although the measurement of effects is difficult. The present paper examines 58 narrative and systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the topic. In peer education, there were many reviews of sexual health and of HIV/AIDS interventions, followed by reviews of various medical conditions and in the context of prisons. More general reviews covered a wider field. In peer counselling, there were several reviews of breast-feeding and mental health. Many early reviews complained of the lack of evaluation; then, later reviews found knowledge gains but not behavior gains; then, still later reviews found both knowledge and behavior gains. Thus, peer education and counselling appear effective but only if organizational factors are well managed and the cultural context of the country respected. The implications for future practice, policy and research were outlined. Full article
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12 pages, 1252 KiB  
Review
Effectiveness of Peer-Led Wellbeing Interventions in Retirement Living: A Systematic Review
by Lilian Barras, Maike Neuhaus, Elizabeth V. Cyarto and Natasha Reid
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(21), 11557; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111557 - 03 Nov 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2113
Abstract
Retirement living (RL) communities may be an ideal setting in which to utilize peer-leaders to implement or support health and wellbeing interventions. To date, this literature has not been systematically summarized. The purpose of this study was to fill this gap with a [...] Read more.
Retirement living (RL) communities may be an ideal setting in which to utilize peer-leaders to implement or support health and wellbeing interventions. To date, this literature has not been systematically summarized. The purpose of this study was to fill this gap with a particular focus on describing the extent to which interventions addressed each level of the social ecological model of behavior change. This review utilized established frameworks for assessing methodological quality of studies, including the CONSORT guidelines and RoB2 bias assessment for cluster randomized controlled trials. A total of 153 records were identified from database searches, and seven studies met inclusion criteria. Overall, there is emerging evidence that peer-led health and wellbeing programs in RL communities can positively impact both health behavior, such as increased physical activity or nutrition, and health status, such as lower blood pressure. The study quality was modest to very good, but only one study was deemed not to have a high risk of bias. Peers are generally cost-effective, more accessible, and relatable leaders for health interventions that can still produce impactful changes. Future studies are needed to better understand how to sustain promising interventions. Full article
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Other

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13 pages, 519 KiB  
Brief Report
Implementation Challenges and Recommendations for Employing Peer Support Workers in Emergency Departments to Support Patients Presenting after an Opioid-Related Overdose
by Annette S. Crisanti, Jennifer Earheart, Megan Deissinger, Kathryn Lowerre and Julie G. Salvador
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(9), 5276; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095276 - 26 Apr 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1864
Abstract
The placement of a peer support workers (PSWs) in emergency departments (ED) is a promising practice for supporting persons with opioid use disorder who are presenting with an overdose or related medical condition. However, this practice is underutilized. The objective of this study [...] Read more.
The placement of a peer support workers (PSWs) in emergency departments (ED) is a promising practice for supporting persons with opioid use disorder who are presenting with an overdose or related medical condition. However, this practice is underutilized. The objective of this study was to identify the challenges of employing PSWs in the ED and provide a checklist to increase the likelihood of their successful integration and retention in this environment. Qualitative methods were used to collect data from nineteen key stakeholders who worked in hospital settings. Using a social-ecological model, themes were identified at the system, hospital, and individual levels. To support integration of PSWs and buy in for the ED team, our findings indicate a need for a planning phase that includes collaboration between leadership, ED staff, and PSWs. Specifically, planning should address four areas: (1) hiring a PSW that is a good fit for the fast-paced ED setting, (2) education of ED staff on the value and role of PSWs, (3) establishing workflow protocols, and (4) providing PSWs with training and appropriate supervision. Full article
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13 pages, 1426 KiB  
Brief Report
Impact of Providing Peer Support on Medical Students’ Empathy, Self-Efficacy, and Mental Health Stigma
by Matthew P. Abrams, Joshua Salzman, Andrea Espina Rey and Katherine Daly
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(9), 5135; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095135 - 23 Apr 2022
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3407
Abstract
Background: Peer-support programs in medical school can buffer feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, social isolation, and burnout, drawing upon the benefits of near-peer-support resources. This study examined the effects of providing support to students in a medical school peer-support program. Methods: Using a pre-post, [...] Read more.
Background: Peer-support programs in medical school can buffer feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, social isolation, and burnout, drawing upon the benefits of near-peer-support resources. This study examined the effects of providing support to students in a medical school peer-support program. Methods: Using a pre-post, quasi-experimental study design, the investigators surveyed medical students who were peer supporters in their second through fourth years of medical school with four measures assessing (1) empathy, (2) self-efficacy, (3) mental health stigma, and (4) likelihood to assist peers with mental health problems to examine if serving as a volunteer peer supporter had any effect. Participants included 38 medical students that were actively enrolled peer supporters during the 2020–2021 year at a United States allopathic medical school. Results: Medical students who participated as peer supporters were found to have higher ratings of empathy scores (Z = −1.964, p = 0.050, r = 0.34) and self-efficacy scores (Z = −2.060, p = 0.039, r = 0.35) after participation in the program. No significant changes were noted for mental health stigma or likelihood to assist peers with mental health problems. Discussion: Peer-support programs present a low-cost, sustainable modality to promote wellbeing in medical students. There is a growing body of literature documenting the benefits of peer-support services. This brief, novel study examined the effects of providing peer support on the peer supporters and found higher self-reported ratings of empathy and self-efficacy after participation. These findings underscore peer-support programs as a valuable wellness resource not only for medical students who use the services but for those who provide them as well. Full article
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