Reflection on Peer Education as Freddie Gray Trial Begins

UPDATE: Second Officer Goes on Trial

Sandtown is one of the poorest sections of Baltimore. At 21percent its unemployment rate is four times the national average. It has a population of only 14,000 but its infant mortality rate is 21.2. That’s three and a half times the national average!

Back, on the morning of April 12th, 2015 Freddie Gray, a 27-year-old resident of the Sandtown neighborhood was chased by police, arrested, placed in leg irons and detained inside a police wagon for making eye contact with an officer. An hour later, paramedics were called for an “unconscious male” at the Western District police station. Gray, it was reported, was in serious medical distress. Paramedics rushed Gray to shock trauma where he died less than a week later. The nation watched as protests were overshadowed by violent outbursts and looting and Baltimore was forced to issue curfew. Six officers were later charged with misconduct and his death. Now, the first officer involved in the death of Freddie Gray is set for trial Monday, November 30th.

According to a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that looked at the poorest sections of five major cities in Asia, Africa and the U.S., a staggering 50 percent of young females in Baltimore reported a pregnancy, which researchers associated with more time out of school, more violence in the community and respondents’ “perception of a poor physical environment.”

Freddie Gray’s death did not occur in a vacuum. This Johns Hopkins’ study looked at the health challenges (violence, limited health services etc.) common among youth in impoverished urban areas including Sandtown. The study analyzed various aspects of poor neighborhood environments, like physical deterioration, social cohesion, perceptions of safety and fear, and observed violence.

Interestingly, the reporting from the five cities is almost uniform. For example, it found that young people’s physical and social environment greatly impacts their perception of their health. All the youth who participated in the study were “very much focused on the unhealthful aspects of their physical and social environment when they were asked to talk about or depict their health.”

The study also notes that substance abuse is high across the board among adolescents in poor neighborhoods as is depression, post-traumatic stress, sexual violence and suicide ideation. Those with more access to social support, however, report better mental health scores.

The study also examined what role social support systems played in the health of youth from these poor areas. Across the board, both young women and men indicated that social capital (positive relationships with adults and peers) was the most important of all indicators of good health.

Peer education programs can be a powerful approach to educating youth and changing their attitudes. Studies show that teenagers and young adults receive most of their information about sexual expression from other youth and the media and that peer influence becomes increasingly important as adolescents mature.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that peers influence youths’ health behaviors—not only in regard to sexuality, but also in regard to violence and substance use. Peer education can support young people in developing positive group norms and in making healthy decisions.

Peer educators are a vital tool to affect change because they relate to their peers on a different level than the government, health professionals or adult health educators. Preconception Peer Educators should be proud of the work they are a part of in the elimination of health disparities but also understand just how valuable their volunteerism is in real time, in neighborhoods like Sandtown.






Advisors are the key to any program or club and the prerequisite for program implementation. The advisors are an essential component of the PPE Program because they guide the students, communicate with the Office of Minority Health Resource Center and assist with the operation of the program in the universities and communities.

Advisors aid the students in the development, implementation and monitoring of their work plan and help connect them with local community organizations and health departments.

Responsibilities and Work-plan:

  • Recruit students as Preconception Peer Educators.
  • Training logistics (training site, catering, etc.)
  • Coordinate transportation for students to training location.
  • Guide and monitor the students’ work plan and assessments while at the training to ensure their full participation.
  • Guide and mentor students to ensure their full participation in campus and community outreach activities.
  • Discuss with students ways to make the Preconception Peer Educator Program academically and personally meaningful to them.
  • Oversee reporting compliance to the Office of Minority Health Resource Center (see. Reporting forms – due at the end of each semester)
  • Keep the Office of Minority Health Resource Center apprised of current Preconception Peer Educators.
  • Facilitate implementation of the Preconception Peer Educator program on campus following the training.
  • Ensure that students complete a Pre-Training Test/Homework on preconception health and infant mortality in preparation for the training.

What we need from the faculty and administration

    1. To agree to host the program.
    2. To select students to attend the training and continue the program on your campus by training future generations of PPE’s
    3. To select a faculty member to be the mentor. The mentor is key in guiding the students through the training and their ongoing outreach.

Advisor Training

To help ensure the success of the training and program we are requesting that advisers

    1. Bring with them a list of community partners or organizations with which they have a relationship or ongoing work that can serve as potential partners in this effort.
    2. The advisors should bring a list of middle and high schools with which they (or the school) have developed any relationship. If there is no existing relationship, it would be wise to bring a list of neighboring middle or high schools, so we can work in approaching them in the future.
    3. The advisors should discuss with their students ways to make the PPE Program academically meaningful to them. In the past, students have used the PPE Program for service learning credit, independent studies, research, etc.
    4. The advisors should help with the evaluation study by ensuring compliance with the reporting.
    5. Guide and monitor the students’ work plan and assessments while at the training to ensure their full participation

There will be continuous oversight and collaboration from OMH throughout the program and beyond.

The Preconception Peer Educators Program is governed by the Office of Minority Health Preconception Health Advisory Board (pictured above). The Advisory Board is comprised of faculty advisors from established PPE programs from all over the United States. The board serves as council for the PPE program and is available to mentor new programs and faculty advisors.

Contact the Office of Minority Health Resource Center (Teddy Owusu, program coordinator) for assistance. The resource center will follow up and can provide needed guidance and contacts through every step of the process.

How to Become a Preconception Peer Educator

Preconception Peer Educators (PPEs) are certified by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health Resource Center to serve as health peer educators in their community. To become a PPE, prospective students must acquire the Level 1 and Level 2 certifications. The two levels of training work together to educate each student on core competencies of preconception health, health disparities and outreach skills.

cert 1
Certificate 1: This certificate will be awarded to students who participate in the Level 1, basic PPE training on preconception health, infant mortality and peer education.
Certificate 2: This certificate will be awarded to students who complete the PPE Level 1 basic training and complete required activities including webinars. Students who complete all required activities will be certified as a Preconception Peer Educator.

Required Activities:  In order to be certified as a PPE, (after the training) students must complete the following requirements. Please note requirements may vary and be determined at the discretion of the faculty adviser:

Student must be affiliated with an active PPE program and within the course of a year be involved in:

  1. One (1) Recruitment event
  2. One (1) Training event
  3. Two (2) Campus activities
  4. One (1) Community activity
  5. Webinars: must attend a minimum of 6 live or 8 archived sessions

**     Certified PPEs must undergo a “refresher” course every 2 years in order to maintain up- to- date on statistics and other data around the curriculum.

Events and activities include (examples)

Preconception Health Week, Minority Health Month, Infant Mortality Awareness Month, screenings, discussion series, engaging school health centers, collaboration with other campus groups, Greek organization activities such as: Delta Sigma Theta  prematurity initiative and Zeta  Phi Beta Bowling for Babies, fundraisers, health fairs, attending/presenting at conferences, working/participating/volunteering at existing community events.

Notification of Certification Eligibility:

At the end of the year, Faculty Advisers should submit a list of students who have completed all required activities and are eligible for certification. Include student emails and upcoming school year status (freshman, sophomore, etc.) as well.

Diabetes Awareness

November is Diabetes Awareness month for a reason! Over the next couple of months, chances are you, someone you know or possibly everyone you know will be celebrating the upcoming holiday season with generous helpings of delicious foods. Food certainly makes this time of year that much more enjoyable but keep in mind that the holidays also present opportunities for overeating and developing bad habits.
Therefore, it’s also the perfect opportunity for us to educate ourselves on our health risks and adopt healthy eating habits.

Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Hyperglycemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels. Diabetes affects nine percent of adults around the world including an estimated 29.1 million people in the United States alone and is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.

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There are three primary forms of diabetes:
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed in approximately 5 to 10% of all pregnancies.

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.

Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors

Individuals from racial and ethnic minority communities are at an increased risk for developing and having type 2 diabetes, American Indians/Alaska Natives having the highest rates of the disease at an estimated 15.9%. The second highest rate of type 2 diabetes occurs among African Americans (13.2%), followed by Latinos (12.8%), Asian Americans (9.0%) and non-Hispanic Whites (7.6%).

Additional risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Age (individuals 45 years and older are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes)
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity

What you can do

Although age and family history are uncontrollable risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, there are still ways to help decrease your risk. Lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity are key in reducing the risk for developing and managing the disease.


For PPEs it is also important to educate your peers on healthy eating habits and maintaining active lifestyles.

Podcast on managing diabetes presented by NIH’s National Diabetes Education Program – Managing Diabetes Series (6)

Road to Health Toolkit – provides materials to start a community outreach program reinforcing the message that type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented. The Road to Health Training Guide (available in English and  Spanish) use the Road to Health Training Video to assist with conducting trainings

Breast Cancer. Genetic Counseling. A Firsthand Account

Dr. Wilson, Surgical Oncologist and Surgery Residency Program Director, delivers a fascinating presentation on her personal experience with cancer as a doctor and a patient. Dr. Wilson is joined by Nicole Thompson, Howard University Hospital Genetic counselor, to discuss genetic counseling. For slides of their presentations contact Teddy Owusu |

Continue reading Breast Cancer. Genetic Counseling. A Firsthand Account

Webinar: One Key Question

Published on Nov 13, 2015

One Key Question® is a simple initiative designed by the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health to help providers efficiently identify women who need preventive reproductive health services.

By asking: “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?”, primary care teams can ensure they are screening for pregnancy intention and providing the follow up care based on their patients own goals for her heath. This webinar is recommended for peer educators as well as health professionals. Learn skills to identify peer/patient needs. OFRH is here to help integrate OKQ into practice!

Upcoming Events: November

Nov. 4: National Eating Healthy Day

Nov. 5: Funding Opportunity. Health Resources and Services Administration

Guidelines for Women’s Preventive Services (HRSA-16-057) deadline to apply is Mon, January 4, 2016

Rural Health Network Development Planning Program (HRSA-16-017) deadline to apply is Fri, January 8, 2016

**Deadline Nov. 20-21: Funding Opportunity. Limited Competition: Addressing Health Disparities in Maternal and Child Health through Community-Based Participatory Research (R03)

PPE Events

Nov. 7: PPE Training at North Carolina Central University

Nov. 11: Webinar – Breast Cancer. Genetic Counseling. A Personal Account. Register and share

Registration URL:
Webinar ID: 159-970-643

Nov 16 Webinar:  Please join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 10am EST on Monday, November 16th for the Public Health Grand Rounds (PHGR) webcast Public Health Strategies to Prevent Preterm Birth. Preconception Peer Educator trainees who attend the webcast will be able to count it towards their certification requirements.

Nov. 14: PPE Training at Johnson C. Smith University

Webinar: Public Strategies to Prevent Preterm Birth

Please join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, November 16th for the Public Health Grand Rounds (PHGR) webcast Public Health Strategies to Prevent Preterm Birth. Preconception Peer Educator trainees who attend the webcast will be able to count it towards their certification requirements.

To View webcast with Windows Media: Click Here or Flash: Click Here

Continue reading Webinar: Public Strategies to Prevent Preterm Birth

Upcoming Trainings in North Carolina (update)

North Carolina PPEs are staying busy in November with two upcoming trainings hosted at North Carolina Central University and Johnson C. Smith University. See registration information below.

Hurry, spots are filling up fast!

Training Announcements

North Carolina Central University Training. Register here.

Update: Registration for this training is now full.

Johnson C. Smith University Training. Register here.

Update: Registration for this training is now full.

The training will take place on Saturday, 14 November, 2015 on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. There is no cost to participate in the training. All meals will be provided.

Please complete the registration form entirely. After you register you will receive additional information concerning the training by email or from your advisor.

Preconception Peer Educators Welcomes Midwestern University

Midwestern University College of Pharmacy-Glendale (MWU) held its first Preconception Peer Educators training on October 3, 2015. Professors Shareen El-Ibiary and Erin Raney, and a team of students, were able to recruit 39 participants to attend the inaugural training.

MWU faculty developed the training and lecture based on the PPE curriculum and materials provided by the Office of Minority Health Resource Center. Attendees were introduced to the program, topics such as health disparities and infant mortality etc. and even participated in planning a public health fair.

Guests from the Maricopa County Department of Public Health joined the training to provide information on local projects to help reduce infant mortality in the South Phoenix area, such as, perinatal case management services and health education events .

Please join us in welcoming Shareen, Erin and the students at Midwestern University College of Pharmacy to the PPE program family. Congratulations!