Issue addressed: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia have an inequitable burden of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD), concentrated among young people and necessitating ongoing medical care during adolescence. There is an unmet need for improved well-being and support for these young people to complement current biomedical management.
Methods: This pilot program initiative aimed to determine the suitability and appropriate format of an ongoing peer support program to address the needs of young people living with RHD in urban Darwin.
Results: Five participants took part in three sessions. Findings demonstrated the peer-support setting was conducive to offering support and enabled participants to share their experiences of living with RHD with facilitators and each other. Satisfaction rates for each session, including both educational components and support activities, were high.
Conclusions: Learnings from the pilot program can inform the following elements of an ongoing peer-support program: characteristics of co-facilitators and external presenters; program format and session outlines; possible session locations; and resourcing.
So what?: Peer support programs for chronic conditions have demonstrated a wide range of benefits including high levels of satisfaction by participants, improved social and emotional well-being and reductions in patient care time required by health professionals. This pilot program demonstrates the same benefits could result for young people living with RHD.