Training Peer Leaders for the UCLA HOPE Study

Picture1The following Q&A is for the UCLA Social Network Health Study.

What is involved in the HOPE Study Peer Leader Training Session?

Peer leaders define the results of the HOPE Study. For a 12-week period, our peer leaders are in direct contact with study participants in a Facebook group and they essentially drive the conversation around health, stigma, and HIV. Therefore, it is important that peer leaders are equipped with the proper knowledge and communication tools needed to interact with the participants. We aim to accomplish this through training sessions taught by health experts in the medical and research fields. In the intervention group, topics range from HIV epidemiology, testing, prevention, and stigma; in the control group, peer leaders learn about general health such as stress reduction, diet and exercise, and so on. Both groups are taught technical aspects of social media communication methods.

How many training sessions are peer leaders expected to participate in?

The peer leaders participate in a three-hour training session for three consecutive Sundays at the UCLA campus. The peer leaders are randomized to either an intervention group or a control group beforehand and each group is taught by the same trainers at different time points. The three hours go by fairly quickly because the trainers present the materials in a very engaging manner and incorporate group activities throughout the session. The peer leaders are expected to attend all three sessions in order to continue participating in the study.

Is there something specific that peer leaders need to bring with them to each session? Is there homework?

We do not require the peer leaders to bring anything to the session other than an open mind and an empty stomach (because we provide snacks and drinks!). We also provide laptops to each participant during the session so they can participate in group activities that are designed to take place in a private Facebook group. The in-class activities are supplemented with weekly assignment to encourage the peer leaders to be comfortable communicating about health and stigma in an online platform. This helps the research team assess each individual’s ability to be an effective peer leader for the HOPE Study.

Do peer leaders have to be experienced in giving public presentations or giving speeches?

The peer leaders that are recruited for HOPE Study are already active community members that are experienced and/or have a passion for health outreach. Those who complete the training sessions and successfully demonstrate their ability to be an effective peer leader are provided with a certificate of achievement that many have found to be helpful in attaining community outreach jobs in the past.

Will transportation and/or parking assistance be provided?

We arrange for paid parking at the UCLA campus in lots closest to the training venue, which is typically a workspace or a conference room inside a library. The campus is also easily accessible via public transportation.

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