This background paper makes the case that peer support programmes are a promising approach to enhance social and emotional support, assist patients in daily management and living with diabetes and promote linkages to clinical care.
It provides a brief overview of different approaches to mobilize peer support for diabetes self-management support, discusses evidence to date on the effectiveness of each of these models, highlights logistical and evaluation issues for each model and concludes with a discussion of directions for future research in this area.
The article draws on a wide range of research to make the case that peer support models provide a potentially low-cost, flexible means to supplement formal health care support. Peer support models also potentially benefit both those ‘receiving’ the support and those ‘providing’ it.
It finds that the unifying feature of effective peer support programmes is that they seek to build on the strengths, knowledge and experience that peers can offer. Peer support interventions build on the crucial recognition that people living with chronic illnesses have a great deal to offer each other: They share knowledge and experience that others, including many health care professionals, often cannot understand. It argues that if carefully designed and implemented, peer support interventions can be a very powerful way to help patients with chronic diseases live more successfully with their conditions.
The article sets out the evidence relating to different models of peer support including
- Face-to-face group self-management programmes
- Peer coaches or mentors
- Peer community health workers
- Telephone-based peer support
- Web- and email-based peer support programmes
For each it provides a helpful summary of the evidence about how to ensure each is effective.