Support for Peer-to-Peer Learning

At the request of the Network for a Healthy California, the Atkins Center for Weight and Health at the University of California, Berkeley, recently completed a study to learn about promising practices in peer-led health promotion related to nutrition and physical activity in California.

The goal of this research was to identify successes, challenges, best practices and lessons learned in support of the Network’s ongoing efforts to maximize the effectiveness of peer-led health promotion in California.


The report includes current research about the impact of peer-led approaches, including findings from interviews and site visits conducted with Second Harvest regarding our Nutrition Ambassador program.

The report substantiates what Second Harvest has learned and put into practice with our Nutrition Ambassador program; namely that peer leaders, who share the same language, neighborhood, cultural and/or socioeconomic background as their “students” are typically more successful than outside professionals at reaching people.

Overall, the use of peers for health promotion has been shown to be effective at improving diverse outcomes, including nutrition and physical activity behaviors and chronic disease prevention, self-management and screening. There are other benefits too. For instance, many peer leaders cite improvements in their own habits, increased self-esteem, and confidence. For some peer leaders, participation in these volunteer programs can serve as a springboard for paid employment.

For Second Harvest, our Nutrition Ambassadors play a vital role, enabling us to reach far more people than we would be able to otherwise. There are challenges associated with peer-led health promotion however and the report looks at those too. These challenges include sustaining adequate funding, providing managerial organization, oversight and support, and recruiting and retaining peer leaders.

Read the complete report

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