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Peer engagement principles and best practices: A guide for BC health authorities and other providers

This resource is available in English only

When making research and practice decisions regarding people experiencing substance-use related harms, engaging those with lived experience is crucial – especially when addressing health inequities among these communities.

The notion of peer engagement is based on the philosophy that “peers are the experts in their own experience and provide important perspectives and a reality check.” Peer engagement allows for the depth of insight and perspective on solutions that can only come from having the lived expertise of the physical and social conditions that contribute to substance use–related harms. Understanding peer engagement is necessary for public health to build meaningful relationships to inform the development of strategies to address health inequities. 

Peer Engagement Evaluation Project (PEEP)

Building on the harm reduction activities of the BC Centre for Disease Control, a three-year research project called the Peer Engagement and Evaluation Project (PEEP) was initiated. The result is a document titled Peer engagement principles and best practices: A guide for BC health authorities and other providers.

The document reinforces the role of peers as experts and is based on best practice guides developed through participatory qualitative research — including peer substance users. It emphasizes the importance of shared decision-making power with the communities being affected by the health equity issues addressed.

Practical tools

The guide includes practical tools such as:

  • a peer engagement checklist;
  • a spectrum of peer engagement in decision-making about harm reduction; and
  • key questions to ask of peers as well as program staff.

The resource also explores the dos and don’ts of peer engagement, as well as other practical considerations for how to involve people who use drugs, including communications, overcoming barriers and settings.

Use this resource to:

  • facilitate discussion about peer engagement with communities who experience inequities in substance use harms;
  • develop evidence-based practices to engage with communities who experience inequities in authentic and ongoing ways; and
  • develop a tool to apply peer engagement principles to decision-making and prioritization of resources and initiatives to address substance use and health equity.


Greer, A.M., Amlani, A.A., Buxton, J.A. & the PEEP team. (2017). Peer Engagement Principles and Best Practices: A guide for BC Health Authorities and Other Providers (Version 2). Vancouver, BC; BC Centre for Disease Control.

Related resources

Tags: Community engagement, Healthy public policy, Methods & tools, Public Health Organization, Link

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