Randomized trial testing the effect of peer education at increasing fruit and vegetable intake

David B. Buller, Calvin Morrill, Douglas Taren, Mikel Aickin, Lee Sennott-Miller, Mary Klein Buller, Linda Larkey, Carlos Alatorre, Thomas M. Wentzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Background: The National Cancer Institute recommends that Americans eat at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. National strategies to increase consumption may not reach minority and lower socioeconomic populations. In a randomized trial, peer education was tested for effectiveness at increasing fruit and vegetable intake among lower socioeconomic, multicultural labor and trades employees. Methods: Employees (n = 2091) completed a baseline survey and received an 18-month intervention program through standard communication channels (e.g., workplace mail, cafeteria promotions, and speakers). Ninety-three social networks (cliques) of employees were identified, which were pair matched on intake. At an interim survey (during months 8 and 9), 11 cliques no longer existed and 41 matched pairs of cliques containing 905 employees remained, with one clique per pair being randomly assigned to the peer education intervention. Employees who were central in the communication flow of the peer intervention cliques served as peer educators during the last 9 months of the intervention program. Fruit and vegetable intake was measured with 24-hour intake recall and with food-frequency questions in baseline, outcome (i.e., at 18 months), and 6-month follow-up surveys. All P values are two-sided. Results: By use of multiple regression, statistically significant overall effects of the peer education program were seen in the intake recall (increase of 0.77 total daily servings; P<.0001) and the food-frequency (increase of 0.46 total daily servings; P = .002) questions at the outcome survey. The effect on the total number of servings persisted at the 6-month follow-up survey when measured by the intake recall (increase of 0.41 total daily servings; P = .034) but not the food-frequency (decrease of 0.04 total daily servings; P = .743) questions. Conclusions: Peer education appears to be an effective means of achieving an increase in fruit and vegetable intake among lower socioeconomic, multicultural adult employees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1491-1500
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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