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Peers Play Key Role in Nutrition Education of Latinos

Peers can help improve diabetes self-management and breast-feeding rates

MONDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Peer education can help improve diabetes self-management and breast-feeding outcomes among Latinos, researchers report in the July issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Rafael Perez-Escamilla, Ph.D., of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., and colleagues conducted a review of 22 experimental and quasi-experimental studies on the impact of peer education and counseling on health outcomes among Latinos.

Dietary intake and general knowledge of nutrition were positively influenced by peer nutrition education, as were the self-management of diabetes and breast-feeding practices, the investigators found. However, research based on longitudinal randomized trials is lacking, and more research of this kind is needed to assess the impact of peer education using goal-setting and culturally appropriate theories of behavioral change, the researchers write.

"Future studies should move beyond assessing self-reported behaviors and include objective measures such as anthropometry, biomarkers and blood pressure. They should also have enough statistical power to compare diverse Latino subgroups," the authors conclude. "Operational research is needed to identify the characteristics that peer educators should have, the general and specific training that they should receive, the client loads and dosage, the educational approach and the setting. Studies published thus far vary widely in these parameters, and no clear patterns have emerged to make objective process recommendations."

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