By Lisa Hodgson, RD, CDN, CDE
The value of ongoing support for people with diabetes and their caregivers can play a role in achieving positive outcomes. A new AADE perspectives in practice titled, “The Role and Value of Ongoing and Peer Support in Diabetes Care and Education,” published in the December 2019 issue of The Diabetes Educator, describes how diabetes care and education specialists may incorporate ongoing and peer support into the diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services they deliver.
First, let’s define exactly what we mean when we say peer support. The perspectives in practice paper defines peer support as “support from a person who has knowledge from their own experiences with diabetes, a person with diabetes¸ or a person affected by diabetes (eg, immediate family member or caregiver).” Types of peer support may include face-to-face meetings, online discussions and technology-assisted modalities such as telephone calls, texting and real time web-based interactions.
Several studies support the positive impact of peer support on self-efficacy.
Incorporating lessons learned into practice is a powerful way to enhance person-centered care. Table 4 in the perspectives in practice paper includes a list of action steps to consider when integrating peer support into DSMES services. They include:
- Raise your awareness of the evidence demonstrating the value of peer support for all people with diabetes.
Recent research shows promise for peer support in improving behavioral outcomes like following a healthy eating plan, reading food labels and completing self-care activities. Three recent studies reported higher health-related quality of life and feelings of empowerment among online peer support community participants. Several studies support the positive impact of peer support on self-efficacy. Learning about the evidence related to peer support is an important first step to incorporating peer support resources into practice.
- Assess every individual’s need for, and interest in, peer support at every interaction.
This is a great way to establish a person-centered practice style. Asking open-ended questions about the impact of living with diabetes on personal relationships, whether supportive people are available to talk to and whether the person has regular interactions with other people with diabetes will begin the conversation.
- Use resources that identify peer support communities that align with an individual’s current needs.
An individual's need for, and interest in, different types of support may change over time. Awareness of the growing number of support strategies that are available to individuals living with diabetes allows the diabetes care and education specialist to provide support and encouragement that address these changing needs. As with all social media engagement, it is important that you also discuss privacy considerations with interested individuals. The power of shared lived experience among individuals living with diabetes cannot be overstated. As a diabetes care and education specialist, you are in the unique position to connect individuals with diabetes so that they might learn from each other’s experiences.
AADE has developed guidance and resources to help you incorporate peer support into your practice. For more information, visit Diabeteseducator.org/PeerSupportforHCP.
About the Author:
Lisa Hodgson is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with over twenty years of experience working with people living with diabetes. She is the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Saratoga Hospital in Saratoga Springs, NY. Lisa supervises seventeen dietitians and diabetes educators who practice across all organizational settings. She has extensive experience in diabetes program management and development. Lisa is the 2019 Member Affiliates Liaison on the AADE Board of Directors and 2020 Treasurer. She was appointed to the 2020 AADE Peer Support Workgroup and serves as a Sub-group Co-lead.
AADE Perspectives on Diabetes Care
The American Association of Diabetes Educators Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
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