PURPOSE: Since the 1970s, health promotion and disease prevention programs that rely on lay health advisors have proliferated, making it important to ascertain the levels and types of activity that can reasonably be expected from such advisors. This report describes the activities of lay health advisors participating in a program to increase mammography screening by older African American women and shares lessons that the authors learned about evaluating advisors' activities.
DESCRIPTION OF STUDY: Between September 1994 and January 1996, 144 lay health advisors, associated with the North Carolina Breast Cancer Screening Program, were asked to complete, on a periodic basis, a standardized, self-administered activity report that asked about group presentations in the past 3 months and one-on-one contacts in the past week. Eighty-five advisors submitted one or more reports. The authors tabulated responses for lay health advisors overall, for those turning in one or more reports, and for those reporting a specific type of activity.
RESULTS: The responses showed that North Carolina Breast Cancer Screening Program lay health advisors made approximately one group presentation every 3 months and had one to three individual contacts per week. Group presentations were commonly in churches and homes, and focused on who needs a mammogram, how then, and where to get one. During one-on-one encounters, advisors primarily encouraged women to get mammograms or discussed fears about mammograms.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Information about lay health advisor activities serves several important purposes. Such information allows programs to identify the types of messages that lay health advisors transmit and the number of contacts they make, while also identifying the groups that are more and less difficult to reach, and the topics and locations favored by advisors and the women they contact. Activity data may indicate what resources or other support the advisors need, whether in-service training is necessary, and how to enhance the recruitment and training of additional lay health advisors.