Power of Peer Support to Change Health Behavior to Reduce Risks for Heart Disease and Stroke for African American Men in a Faith-Based Community
Peer support has powerful potential to improve outcomes in a program of health behavior change; yet, how peer support is perceived by participants, its role, and how it contributes to intervention efficacy is not known, especially among African Americans. The purpose of this study was to identify the subjectively perceived experience and potential contributions of peer support to the outcomes of a peer group behavioral intervention designed to change health behavior to reduce risks for heart disease and stroke in African American men in a faith-based community.
A peer support group intervention was implemented to increase health knowledge and to improve health behaviors in line with the American Heart Association’s Life Simple 7 domains (get active, control cholesterol, eat better, manage blood pressure, lose weight, reduce blood sugar, and stop smoking). Fourteen peer group sessions and eight follow-up interviews with program participants were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed.
Seven key themes emerged, including (1) enhancing access to health behavior information and resources, (2) practicing and applying problem-solving skills with group feedback and support, (3) discussing health behavior challenges and barriers, (4) sharing health behavior changes, (5) sharing perceived health outcome improvements and benefits, (6) feelings of belonging and being cared for, and (7) addressing health of family and community.
Qualitative findings revealed a positive perception of peer support and greater understanding of potential reasons why it may be an effective strategy for African American men.
KeywordsPeer support Cardiovascular disease African American men Risk reduction Behavior change program
Research reported in this article was supported by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities through a grant from the National Institutes of Health under award number U54MD008620. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The Institutional Review Board at the University of Minnesota reviewed and approved the study.
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