The importance of peer support in helping people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition has been highlighted by a US study suggesting it reduces the risk of being hospitalised by 70%.
The findings from the University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers were based on people with type 2 diabetes and mild to severe depression.
People with diabetes have an increased risk of depression, and the researchers wanted to explore the role of peer coach interventions to improve the health of people with both conditions.
They selected 424 participants and split them into two groups. One received extra emotional support and diabetes education over 12 months, and the other group received standard diabetes education.
The study examined the impact of peer coach intervention on being either admitted to, or treated, by hospitals in people with both type 2 diabetes and depression, based on data from 2010-2012 from eight rural southern counties in Alabama.
Alabama was picked because it has a high type 2 diabetes prevalence rate but limited resources and just one authorised diabetes educator covering the area.
Professor Andrea Cherrington, who led the study, said: “We found that, for those with diabetes and mild to severe depression, peer support reduced hospitalizations by 70% and acute care by 50%.”
Prof Cherrington and colleagues believe that community health workers and peer support could be an invaluable tool for people with type 2 diabetes and depression.
“We need to come up with strategies to enhance an individual’s self-management and improve health outcomes, all while simultaneously managing cost.
“Health systems and providers must consider new strategies that simultaneously improve health outcomes and attend to the patient experience while managing costs. For me, this research provides evidence that peer support is one strategy that has the potential to achieve each of these aims in the setting of diabetes and comorbid depression.”
The results have been published in the journal Diabetes Care.
Diabetes.co.uks Diabetes Forum is helping people with diabetes every day by enabling online peer support. More than 280,000 people have joined the diabetes community, with participants helping each other by sharing support and advice, while also just being there during challenging times.