Program Protocol: Describing the Delivery of Training and Ongoing Support for Peer Supporters
In our previous analysis of a systematic review by Dale and colleagues, we discussed the degree of variation in the amount of peer support delivered during an intervention as well as the method of delivery. The Dale review analyzed programs that delivered peer support through the following modalities: face-to-face, in groups, individually, over the telephone, and on the web. The evidence suggests that all of these methods of peer support delivery can be effective, but it is often difficult to evaluate the individual components of a peer support program without a detailed protocol paper.
Fortunately, a recent article published by Riddell and colleagues provides a strong example of the kinds of information that can be elucidated in a well-written protocol paper. Based on an Australian project supported by Peers for Progress, this paper presents the protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial of group-based peer support for people with type 2 diabetes in a community setting. To start off a two-part blog series, this post looks at how the protocol paper examined peer supporter training and the delivery of ongoing support.
1) Training – A key factor that affects the ability to successfully replicate a peer support program is a detailed explanation of the training that peer supporters receive. Riddell and colleagues contribute to this critical evidence base by describing the recruitment and training process in detail. Peer leaders were training over 2.5 days by a credentialed diabetes nurse educator experienced in group facilitation training. The training focused on communication and group facilitation skills, goal-setting, problem solving, and increasing awareness of linkages to healthcare and emotional support. For examples and guides on peer support training, please visit the training peer supporters section of our website.
2) Ongoing support – Identified as one of the 4 key functions of successful peer support programs, ongoing support should be provided to both peer supporters and program participants. However, without detailed documentation, it can be difficult to assess the dose delivered. This protocol paper describes the variety of ongoing support that was provided to peer supporters. The project team hosted weekly teleconferences that brought in specialists such as diabetes educators, dieticians, and psychologists. Furthermore, peer supporters received weekly informational e-newsletters that contained information on diabetes care and self-management, as well as responses to questions from program participants. These two activities represent strong examples of current best practices for ongoing support. Additional resources for ongoing support can be found on our website here.
In addition to describing the training program and activities for ongoing support, this paper provides examples of the kinds of resources that were given to program leaders and participants. The second part of this blog will discuss the materials that were provided to leaders and participants, and suggest how protocol papers like this can inform the design and implementation of future peer support programs.