Community based peer support: Developing a model for promoting health literacy (COPES)

Project Lead and contact details: 
Janet Harris

We are surrounded by health information, but many of us have problems using it to improve our health. The process of accessing health information and using it to stay healthy is called 'health literacy'. Health literacy is much more than reading and writing – it means being a critical consumer, deciding whether information is relevant to our particular situation and can be used to improve health. It's also about being able to communicate health needs and understand what health professionals are saying. 

Community engagement is now being used in many places to show us how to use information to improve our health. Research indicates that community engagement can be successful for many reasons, but we think that the peer support that occurs during community projects may be one of the main factors that helps us to be health literate. This project aims to bring all of the research on community engagement and peer support together, and systematically review it to find out: 

(1) What approaches to community engagement are most effective in promoting peer support, to which people and in what circumstances? and 

(2) How does community-based peer support impact on understanding of existing health information and use of health information and health services to improve health and reduce health inequalities?

Partners and collaborators: 
University of Alberta