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Curtin University
Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health

My-Peer: Good Practice Standards for Peer-based Marginalised Youth Health Programs (2008-2010)

Investigators:

Chief Investigators

Co-Investigators

  • Associate Professor Clare Roberts (Research Centre in Applied Psychology)
  • Dr Susan Carruthers (National Drug Research Institute)

Project Managers

Collaborating Partners

  • South Metropolitan TAFE
  • City of Mandurah Billy Dower Youth Centre
  • City of Rockingham Youth Services
  • Inspire Foundation
  • National Drug Research Institute
  • Research Centre in Applied Psychology
  • Uniting Care West
  • Western Australian AIDS Council
  • Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia
  • Youth Focus

Funding

  • Lotterywest ($130,000)
  • Healthway WA (Health Promotion Foundation of Western Australia) ($82,122)

Project Aim

The My-Peer project aimed to develop good practice standards to support the recruitment, training, supervision, evaluation and sustainability of peer based outreach programs for marginalised youth. Using a participatory action research methodology the My-Peer Research Consortium was a collaboration between three Curtin University research centres, seven youth service providers, 12 peer-based youth programs and the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia. The outcomes of the My-Peer project were intended to support practitioners implementing peer-based programs that were designed to reduce the isolation and poor health outcomes experienced by marginalised youth.

Background

Peer-based programs have been widely used in health promotion and risk reduction initiatives due to their capacity to engage with marginalised, at risk young people who are hard to reach by conventional support services. However, peer-based mental health programs have had limited theoretical development and apart from process evaluation, have rarely been evaluated to determine their impact and outcomes, or fully explore their strengths and limitations. In addition, evidence based standards that outline factors necessary for effective and safe peer-based programs have not been well identified.

Key Outcomes

The project built on formative research (POSSAY-1 , POSSAY-2 , Bilyidar) to examine the role of youth peer-based programs in mental health promotion for at risk adolescent populations. This research informed the structure of the My-Peer Toolkit Version 1.0: a web-based resource containing best practice standards for planning, implementing and evaluating peer-based youth programs.

The My-Peer Toolkit Version 1.0 was launched in March 2010 and is available free of charge to youth workers, researchers and mental health practitioners involved in delivering early intervention, preventative programs to promote mental wellbeing within at risk youth populations.

The My-Peer Toolkit Version 1.0 includes three main content areas:

  • Guidelines for the design and implementation of peer-based youth programs;
  • Evaluation framework and tools to measure the effectiveness of peer-based youth programs; and
  • Sustainability guidelines for youth peer-based community programs.

By participating in the My-Peer research project, all involved programs and agencies developed increased capacity to deliver peer-based programs in a safe, effective and sustainable way. Existing approaches and tools for recruitment, training, supervision, support, evaluation and sustainability have been adapted to reflect the core competencies identified for peer volunteers and staff.

The My-Peer research project has also contributed to increased networking and sharing of knowledge and information among agencies and programs which has constantly been emphasised to be of great benefit to improving services.

It is expected that community agencies considering a peer-based program for at risk young people will benefit from the My-Peer Toolkit with the availability of good practice standards for designing and implementing peer-based services. The standards may also be relevant for other types of youth programs supporting at risk youth. Further trial and validation of the standards with other agencies in other contexts and strategies to increase usability of the My-Peer Toolkit will be the focus of the planned My-Peer-2 research project for which funding is currently being sought.

For more information and to view the My-Peer Toolkit Version 1.0 visit: www.mypeer.org.au.

Associated Projects

Publications:

  • Lobo, R., McManus, A., Brown, G., Hildebrand, J. & Maycock B. (2010) Evaluating peer-based youth programs: barriers and enablers. Evaluation Journal of Australasia, 10,(1),36-43.
  • Brown, G., Lobo, R., Maycock, B. & Burns, S. (2007) A Framework for Defining the Role of Peer-Based Approaches in Mental Health Promotion. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 9,(3).
  • Lobo, R. & Brown, G. (2007) Urban myths? Developing locally-relevant outreach approaches for marginalised youth in regional areas, Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 18, 109-112.
  • Lobo, R., Brown, G., Maycock, B. & Burns, S. (2006) POSSAY Project Final Report. Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research, Curtin University, Perth.

Conference Presentations

  • Lobo, R. & Hallett, J. (2010) My-Peer Toolkit – a resource for youth service providers implementing peer-based programs for at risk youth. Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia. Fairground Conference, Perth, 15-16 July 2010.
  • Lobo, R. (2010) A framework for evaluating early intervention programs for at risk youth. 1st International Youth Mental Health Conference. Melbourne, 29-30 July 2010.
  • Lobo, R. (2010) An evaluation framework and evaluation tools for peer-based youth programs. Australasian Evaluation Society Conference, Reflecting on Evaluation, Wellington, 1-3 September 2010.

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