Open Access Open Badges Research article

Effect of a peer-educational intervention on provider knowledge and reported performance in family planning services: a cluster randomized trial

Sakineh Mohammad-Alizadeh Charandabi123*, Rezagoli Vahidi34, Lena Marions5 and Rolf Wahlström16

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Global Health (IHCAR), Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Nursing & Midwifery School, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

3 National Public Health Management Centre (NPMC), Tabriz, Iran

4 Health & Nutrition School, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

5 Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

6 Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-11

Published: 2 February 2010



Peer education is an interactive method of teaching or learning which is widely used for educating school and college students, in a variety of different forms. However, there are few studies on its effectiveness for in-service education. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of an educational programme including peer discussions, based on a needs assessment, on the providers' knowledge and reported performance in family planning services.


An educational programme was designed and applied in a random selection of half of in-charges of the 74 family health units (intervention group) in Tabriz at a regular monthly meeting. The other half constituted the control group. The programme included eight pages of written material and a two-hour, face-to-face discussion session with emphasis on the weak areas identified through a needs assessment questionnaire. The educated in-charges were requested to carry out a similar kind of programme with all peers at their health facilities within one month. All in-charges received one self-administered questionnaire containing knowledge questions one month after the in-charge education (follow-up I: 61 responses), and another one containing knowledge and self-reported performance questions 26 months later (follow-up II: 61 responses). Also, such tests were done for the peers facilitated by the in-charges one (105 responses) and 27 months (114 responses) after the peer discussions. Multiple linear regression was used for comparing mean total scores, and Chi square for comparing proportions between control and intervention groups, after defining facility as the unit of randomization.


The mean total percentage scores of knowledge (percent of maximal possible score) in the intervention group were significantly higher than in the control group, both at follow-up I (63%) and at follow-up II (57%); with a difference of 16 (95% CI: 11, 22) and 5 (95% CI: 0.4, 11) percentage units, respectively. Only two of the nine reported performance items were significantly different among the non in-charges in the intervention group at follow-up II.


The educational programme including peer discussions using existing opportunities with no need for additional absence from the workplace might be a useful complement to formal large group education for the providers.