Accelerating Best Practices in Peer Support Around the World

First Meeting of the National Peer Support Collaborative Learning Network

Patrick Yao Tang, MPH

The first meeting of the National Peer Support Collaborative Learning Network represents Peers for Progress’ commitment to promoting and advancing peer support in the U.S. by bringing together national experts in peer support, community health, and family medicine. From November 12-13 in Washington, D.C., Peers for Progress and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) hosted work group meetings, networking sessions, and forum discussions to generate ideas for priority areas for the Network in 2014.

Attendees included:

  • Key opinion leaders
  • Experts in the field, including researchers
  • Leaders of peer support programs and organizations
  • Funders
  • Network members
  • NCLR Affiliates
  • Stakeholders representing community-based organizations, health care organizations, insurance groups and government agencies

On the afternoon of November 12th, representatives of six work groups met to discuss their projects, share lessons learned, and formulate next steps for dissemination. For many work groups members, this was their first time meeting each other in person after collaborating for months over email and telephone. One of the objectives for this session was to gather feedback from work groups members to improve the collaborative experience next year.

That night, we moved to the historic Mayflower Hotel for a reception, dinner, and group discussion. Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR, delivered the welcoming remarks to a room full of captivated attendees. Craig Doane, Executive Director of the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, and Delia Pompa, Senior VP of Programs at NCLR, opened the post-dinner discussion.

Even at the end of a long day, the attendees were able to muster up a great deal of energy during the post-dinner discussion. Attendees never hesitated to speak up and share their opinions. Without a single lull in the conversation, our moderator had to cut the discussion short in order to let people get some rest. I got the feeling that the attendees could have stayed up talking all night if we hadn’t adjourned at a reasonable hour.

The next morning, Ed Fisher, Global Director of Peers for Progress, launched the second day with an overview of peer support and the National Peer Support Collaborative Learning Network. From there, we dove into three open forum discussions on 1) Peer Support and Behavioral Health, 2) Audiences and Communities, and 3) Organizational and Systems Issues. The cross-cutting themes were health care reform and other funding sources for peer support, advocacy, preserving peer support as a humanizing force in a system oriented toward objective and financial outcomes, and retention, certification, quality improvement, and related issues in peer support programs.

As the microphone passed from one speaker to the next, we seemed to cover the entire spectrum of perspectives in the field of peer support. Some attendees were interested in the potential of peer support for primary prevention; how do we reach those who are not yet sick? In the discussion about program evaluation, participants wanted to move the field from a research-based approach to a quality improvement approach that will lead to lasting community benefits. In the context of health reform, a few attendees kept our eyes on the prize, reminding us that care integration is not the ultimate goal – providing comprehensive, whole person, family-focused care is what we should be striving for.

One question that stuck with me, personally, is this: Is peer support inherently disruptive and fundamentally transformative with respect to health care system, or will it conform to the existing paradigm of health care in the United States? Will peer support transform health care from within someday?

We hope that participants left the meeting with fresh ideas and a renewed sense of purpose. Our staff certainly felt the enthusiasm and brought it back with us to our offices in Chapel Hill. Check back soon for the final meeting report to see our plans for the Network in 2014. As always, we invite everyone in the Network to send us your opinions and feedback.


What participants had to say:

“Fantastic, timely gathering”

“Thought-provoking and positive atmosphere”

“What I liked most was that the meeting utilized every participant’s diverse experience to set goals for future work”


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