Accelerating Best Practices in Peer Support Around the World

Start a Program

Starting a peer support program involves thinking about the kinds of support that people need and how you can address them.  Doing so requires attention to the needs and strengths of your organization, the target population you aim to serve, the peer supporters and what they need to provide support, and ideas about what peer support would look like in your setting.

In this section you can find information and resources that introduce a continuous process for developing and improving peer support programs.  Resources also illustrate various ways and approaches to address core functions of peer support.


Program Development and Management: Four Phases

As illustrated below, starting or strengthening a peer support program often goes through four phases: Organizational Readiness, Program Development, Program Implementation, & Evaluation. All phases are critical to program sustainability.

For more details, please view the Peers for Progress Guide to Program Development and Management

Learn more about how to start a peer support program


  • The Chronic Illness Peer Support Network’s Best Practice Framework covers major aspects of developing and managing a volunteer-based, chronic illness peer support program.


  • The World Health Organization’s Global Evidence of Community Health Workers (CHWs) provides programmatic overview and recommendations that can help to design and manage a peer support program utilizing CHWs for various diseases/conditions.


  • This Peer Support Resource Manual by British Columbia Ministry of Health Services describes formal and informal structures of peer support program for adults with mental illnesses.


  • This Peer Support Program Manual by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine et al provides a comprehensive overview for starting a peer support program for Individuals with brain injury and their families.




  • Live, Learn and Share – A Diabetes Peer Support Group Guide for the Black Caribbean Community provides information, step-by-step guidance and resources for people living with diabetes to start a Diabetes Peer Support Group.


The core functions – assistance in daily living, social and emotional support, linkages to care and community resources, as well as ongoing support – provide a general outline for peer support while leaving flexibility to tailor programs to local and regional needs, populations, health systems, and culture.

Below presents two examples selected from the 14 Peers for Progress Grantee Projects.

You can also read Peers for Progress Article in Health Affairs’ January 2012 Issue (volume 31, number 1). The paper, “Peer support for self-management of diabetes improved outcomes in international settings,” describes both what peer support based on the core functions looks like in Peers for Progress Grantee projects in Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda and Thailand, and the results of these projects.



Peer Support in Cameroon


Jean Claude Mbanya, President, International Diabetes Federation

University of Yaoundé and Central Hospital, Yaoundé



Assistance in Daily Management
Group meetings, individual contacts (5 per month), and varied  activities,  e.g.,  group meals to demonstrate healthy diet, group exercise

Social and Emotional Support
Could discuss with Peer Supporter topics unable to discuss in group or with professionals

Linkage to Clinical Care
Peer Supporters not clinicians but motivational link between participants and clinical care; Accompany patients to clinic visits

Ongoing Support
Developed to be continued indefinitely, e.g., convenient locations, only modest honoraria for Peer Supporters




Community Based Peer Support in San Diego, California, USA

Guadalupe X. Ayala, San Diego State University



Assistance in Daily Management
Support groups to problem solve barriers to self-management behaviors such as medication use

Social and Emotional Support
Family home visits to address relationships, communication, and issues around handling illness

Linkage to Clinical Care
Clinic tours to introduce diabetes education programs; group visits to local libraries to explore community services

Ongoing Support
Support groups to build positive and supportive social networks


Here summarizes key lessons learned about success & failure factors from the Peers for Progress Grantee projects and other network members.

Success Factors

  • Keep it simple – Remember that peer support is meant to be from “people like me”
  • Avoid too many details of training – Remember, key is knowing, listening, and being available
  • Key: ongoing support and information for peer supporters


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