Peer Support and Self Empowerment

RFS - girls drinking coffeeSo what is peer support?

Peer support is a way to link people living with a particular condition to share knowledge and experiences, in this case diabetes. Peer support can take many forms: formal group meetings, phone calls, text messaging, casual visits, a walk, grocery shopping, or just a chat. Peer support is intended to complement and enhance your professional health care by creating the emotional, social and practical assistance necessary for managing the disease and staying healthy each and every day.

Peer support’s effectiveness was validated in a recent study from the University of Michigan Health System published October 2010 in Annals of Internal Medicine. A simple weekly phone call(s) with a peer facing the same self-management challenges helped diabetes patients manage their conditions and improve their blood sugar levels better than those who used traditional nurse care management services alone. The study showed women with uncontrolled diabetes reduced their A1c levels after six months in the program.

The peer relationship promotes respect, trust and warmth, and helps empower an individual to make changes and decisions that enhance their lives.

  • Provides assistance in daily management and living with diabetes – Peers, people who have diabetes themselves, use their own experiences with diet, physical activity and adherence to medical advice to assist others to manage their own diabetes. Peers may also help identify key local resources, including where to buy healthy foods, good locations for exercise or exceptional and empathetic medical professionals.
  • Provides social and emotional support – Peers can listen empathetically and encourage when appropriate. Peer supporters can play an integral role in helping other people with diabetes cope with social or emotional barriers and keep them motivated to reach their health goals.
  • Promotes clinical care when appropriate. Peers can help other individuals with diabetes understand when it is important to seek medical assistance for an issue related to their diabetes.
  • Ongoing support. Peers work to keep patients engaged by providing proactive, flexible and continual long-term follow-up.
  • Inexpensive.These programs are low cost and relatively easy to establish and attend.

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