Peer Support and Self Empowerment

Types of Peer Support Groups

  • Group is led by medical professional and invites peer exchanges. A health care provider, or team of providers, leads a group of people who have diabetes to address their self-management challenges. Some individuals don’t consider this true peer support unless the medical provider also has diabetes themselves.
Note: Although Defeat Diabetes Foundation believes all forms of peer support are better than none, we subscribe to the philosophy that peer led programs provide a better opportunity for sharing experiences without the “we know best attitude” that sometimes comes hand-in-hand when dealing with medical professionals.
  • Peer-led programs. A person who has diabetes leads the group to share experiences and encourage each other to be proactive regarding their diabetes self- management.
  • Peer coaches or peer mentors. Are individuals with diabetes who meet one-on-one with others to listen, discuss concerns and provide support.
  • Peer health advocates. These individuals may not share the chronic condition, but do share language, culture or community with their patients. Advocates work to bridge the gap between the individual and health care providers.
  • Telephone-based peer support. This type of peer support is provided through regular phone calls and may be used alone or to complement group interaction.
  • Web and e-mail-based programs. These programs use the Internet to mobilize peer support. In addition to increasing the numbers of people who can participate in the program, this format may be helpful for people with significant mobility impairments, transportation issues or lack of local services. An online program may also help some participants overcome shyness around face-to-face contact.

Napoleon Hill, in You Can Work Your Own Miracles, points out a few attributes that are beneficial to people living with a chronic disease, such as diabetes:

  • A positive mental attitude – Having diabetes isn’t the end of the world, but you will have emotional ups and downs as you seek to attain good health and live your life to its fullest. Finding ways to stay positive makes it easier to bounce back from the lows and take full advantage of the highs. Plus, people with positive mental attitudes are just nicer to be around!
  • Self-discipline – Every decision you make may impact your diabetes and your long term health. Having the self-discipline to test regularly, exercise daily and eat properly means you have a better chance of avoiding the complications of the disease.
  • Freedom from fear – Fear causes inaction. And, when it comes to diabetes, poor self-management can spell disaster. The best way to be free of fear is to become knowledgeable about diabetes by participating in education and peer support programs.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
– Mahatma Gandhi


Hill, Napoleon. (1971). You Can Work Your Own Miracles. New York, NY: Ballantine Books

British Columbia Ministry of Health, Adult Mental Health Policy Division. (2001). Peer Support Resource Manual. Victoria, British Columbia Canada

Heisler, M. (2006) Building Peer Support Programs to Manage Chronic Disease: Seven Models for Success. California Health Care Foundation.

University of Michigan Health Systems Newsroom. (2010). Diabetic adults’ conditions improved after phone calls with fellow patients. Ann Arbor, MI

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