This report sets out what peer support is, its relationship to person-centred care and the evidence for its benefits. It argues that there is a need for a system wide approach to providing evidence-based, standardized and flexible peer support that improves health and humanizes care.
The report sets out international evidence, from the UK and other countries, that peer support helps people prevent disease, helps people manage chronic diseases like diabetes, helps people cope with stress or emotional and psychological challenges, engages populations that are hardly reached by health care systems and interventions, and reduces unnecessary care such as multiple hospital admissions for the same problem. It argues that in each of these applications, peer support is generally cost-effective and often cost-saving.
Based on the research it finds that peer support has four key functions:
- Helping people apply disease management or prevention plans in daily life
- Social and emotional support
- Linking individuals with clinical, community, and other resources
- Ongoing availability of support
The paper argues that these four key functions provide a template for standardizing and promoting peer support worldwide while leaving room for flexible adaptation to meet individual needs as well as those of the community, health system, or culture being served.