Role and contribution of peer educators in youth-friendly health services in Ethiopia: evidence from programmatic experience with a peer education intervention
Background: Ethiopia has been integrating peer education program as a key element of its adolescent and youth reproductive health program. The aim of this study was to describe the roles and contributions of peer educators in promoting healthy behavior, generating demand for and uptake of youth-friendly services (YFS), and serving as change agents in their communities.
Methods: A facility-based mixed method cross-sectional study was conducted from May 6-21, 2019. Exit interviews were conducted with 353 YFS clients and key informant interviews were done with 56 sampled individuals who had previous experience with peer education and YFS. A descriptive statistic was used to analyze the data using SPSS v.20 and qualitative data were analyzed manually and summarized based on emerging themes.
Results: Of the 353 YFS clients, 61% were female, 65% were single, and 52% were in school. More than half of the respondents (61%) had never heard about YFS before coming to the health facility on the day of the survey. Among those who had heard about YFS (39%), the most common source of information was peer educators (38%) followed by 30% school clubs, and the remaining respondents (32%) were from parents, siblings, colleagues. Furthermore, the study also indicated that most of the respondents (78%) were aware of the work of peer educators, of which 45% had met with a peer educator and 55% knew about peer educators. The key informant interviews revealed peer educators were respected for sharing health information with their peers and for their willingness to provide community services.
Conclusions: The findings show that peer educators play an important role in their communities by providing and dispensing different sexual and reproductive health information. More efforts need to be put towards reaching out-of-school youth so that they too can benefit from the program. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2021;35(SI-5):37-44]
Key words: peer educator; peer education; youth-friendly health service; adolescent and youth health service; Ethiopia