Abstract

Background: Falls are common in older people. Despite strong evidence for effective falls prevention strategies, there appears to be limited translation of these strategies from research to clinical practice. Use of peers in delivering falls prevention education messages has been proposed to improve uptake of falls prevention strategies and facilitate translation to practice. Volunteer peer educators often deliver educational presentations on falls prevention to community-dwelling older adults. However, research evaluating the effectiveness of peer-led education approaches in falls prevention has been limited and no known study has evaluated such a program from the perspective of peer educators involved in delivering the message. The purpose of this study was to explore peer educators’ perspective about their role in delivering peer-led falls prevention education for community-dwelling older adults.

Methods: A two-stage qualitative inductive constant comparative design was used.In stage one (core component) focus group interviews involving a total of eleven participants were conducted. During stage two (supplementary component) semi-structured interviews with two participants were conducted. Data were analysed thematically by two researchers independently. Key themes were identified and findings were displayed in a conceptual framework.

Results: Peer educators were motivated to deliver educational presentations and importantly, to reach an optimal peer connection with their audience. Key themes identified included both personal and organisational factors that impact on educators’ capacity to facilitate their peers’ engagement with the message. Personal factors that facilitated message delivery and engagement included peer-to-peer connection and perceived credibility, while barriers included a reluctance to accept the message that they were at risk of falling by some members in the audience. Organisational factors, including ongoing training for peer educators and formative feedback following presentations, were perceived as essential because they affect successful message delivery.

Conclusions: Peer educators have the potential to effectively deliver falls prevention education to older adults and influence acceptance of the message as they possess the peer-to-peer connection that facilitates optimal engagement. There is a need to consider incorporating learnings from this research into a formal large scale evaluation of the effectiveness of the peer education approach in reducing falls in older adults.

Keywords

aged 80 and over, health promotion, accidental falls, health education, qualitative research

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