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Peer support for disadvantaged parents: a narrative review of strategies used in home visiting health interventions in high-income countries

  • Kåks, Per1
  • Målqvist, Mats1
  • 1 Uppsala University, Uppsala, SE-75185, Sweden , Uppsala (Sweden)
Published Article
BMC Health Services Research
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Jul 23, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12913-020-05540-8
Springer Nature


BackgroundDisparities in health persist even in high-income countries, and healthcare systems do not reach disadvantaged families as needed. A number of home-visiting interventions in high-income countries offering peer support for parents have been implemented to bridge the gaps in health in a cost-effective way. The lack of standard for intervention design has however resulted in a large variety of the strategies used. The objective for this article is to conduct a review of peer support home visiting interventions for parents and children in high-income countries, aiming to assess the strategies used, their outcomes and the challenges faced by peer supporters.MethodsRelevant articles published in English between January 2004 and August 2019 were identified using PubMed, and reference lists were reviewed to identify additional articles. Studies were included if they reported on individual peer support health interventions, delivered at home to socioeconomically disadvantaged parents in high-income countries. Nineteen studies were found that met the inclusion criteria, and data were extracted on study characteristics, intervention design and outcomes. Data on intervention design was characterized iteratively to generate overarching categories of strategies used in the programs.ResultsMost studies used healthcare facilities for recruitment, even when the interventions were not delivered by the formal healthcare system. The strategies used to engage supported parents included (1) connection in the form of emotional support, relationship building and matching for background, (2) flexibility in regards to content, intensity, location and mode of contact, and (3) linking through referrals and facilitation of other contacts. A number of significant quantifiable improvements could be demonstrated. Due to large heterogeneity of outcomes, meta-analyses were not viable. Peer supporters experienced challenges with involving other family members than the supported parent as well as with finding their role in relation to other support structures.ConclusionsPeer support delivered as home visiting interventions have been used for hard-to-reach parents in a variety of high-income contexts and for a multitude of health concerns. Overall, despite variation in intervention design, the strategies employed followed common themes and were generally well received.

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