Sustaining Diversity in Peer Education Groups


Sarah Kook, Region III SAC

November 3, 2017

Minorities experience and cope with various illnesses in different ways and at different rates compared to their counterparts, due to their unique life experiences and social factors. In addition, culture often defines an illness and its care one receives, which can also contribute to the disparity in resource utilization. For these reasons, the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) members are dedicated to uplifting all campuses around the world through inclusive promotion of all aspects of well-being. We believe peer health education programs must provide culturally-sensitive health information and resources, to meet the needs of diverse student populations on campuses.  

Sustaining diversity, however, may be easier said than done. What can we do to foster and sustain diversity within our organizations and on campus? How do we expand resources and fight discrimination to fortify the diversity within the peer education? How do we stay committed to recognizing prejudice, eliminating discrimination, as well as recognizing others’ attitudes, beliefs, and values?

Below are a few strategies adapted from “Activities Commonly Included in Diversity Initiatives” that were listed in Jayne, Michele, and Robert’s "Leveraging diversity to improve business performance: Research findings and recommendations for organizations." (2004) and few practices by Health Outreach Peer Educators at the College of William and Mary.

  1. Recruitment and Retention
    1. Diverse recruiting teams: The more diverse a recruiting team is, the less biased it will be during recruitment.
    2. Advertisement: Efforts targeting minority organizations and groups, as well as diverse student bodies
    3. Application/interview questions: “How do you think issues of diversity (including diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, neurodiversity, etc.) affect health and health behaviors?” “How do you think peer educators can help promote cultural diversity through programming and education?” “What is health to you and how could it be different for someone else?"

    4. Appreciating diverse skill set: Is there too much emphasis on one skill that could discourage certain minority students from applying?  

    5. Annual census: To be aware of demographic distribution of the organization. Who is over- or under-represented?

  2. Communication
    1. Discussion and programs on the intersectionality of health issues with diversity or social factors

    2. Inclusive language and examples during programs

    3. Sharing program ideas: to receive constructive feedback and learn from people outside of the group

  3. Training and Development
    1. Diversity training and continuing education to increase cultural awareness among members

    2. Equity in leadership and other training opportunities  to allow diverse exec teams.

  4. Staffing and Infrastructure
    1. Diversity committee: Zaid Khan, the diversity chair of HOPE, describes the roles of a diversity committee as follows: “to foster programming where students of all forms of diversity may benefit and to help individuals appreciate their own layers of complexity... entails a wide range of activities such as reaching out to underrepresented/minority groups for their input, internally reviewing programs to increase inclusivity, and supporting recruitment efforts to ensure the student body demographics are being accurately represented in the club...”

  5. External Partnership
    1. Diversity center on campus

    2. Collaboration with minority interest or cultural groups: There could be multiple presentations on one topic addressing each minority groups to discuss intersectionality of the issue. Programs can be tailored for each audience to address their specific needs and by collaborating with the leaders from the minority groups, peer educators can gain cultural backgrounds and other factors that could influence community health.

Diversity in health education should not merely mean statistically proportional recruitment; rather, we should strive to promote and affirm diversity and intersectionality, encouraging members to express compassion, respect and dignity for all individuals regardless of their backgrounds. By better understanding minorities’ experience, we can better support and empower each other, and reduce the stigma surrounding various health practices through culturally sensitive care and resources. Being sensitive to everyone’s needs in our communities, we can work together “Moving Mountains and Making Change”.

How does your peer health education program strive to foster diversity? Feel free to comment below to share your institution’s strategies!


Work Cited

Jayne, Michele EA, and Robert L. Dipboye. "Leveraging diversity to improve business performance: Research findings and recommendations for organizations." Human resource management 43.4 (2004): 409-424.

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