Ethnic and racial minorities are more likely to experience complications from diabetes, and the death rate from the disease among Hispanics is 50 percent higher than for non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
Researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Medicine examined the effectiveness of interventions in which patients with diabetes received peer support from a person who had firsthand knowledge of diabetes, or from someone who had been affected by diabetes but did not have the disease, such as a caregiver or family member. The researchers found that the interventions were effective at improving the blood sugar levels of participants from minority groups, especially those of Hispanic ethnicity.
“Peer supporters can help diabetic patients better manage their disease by providing advice on diet and exercise regimens, monitoring blood sugar levels, and coping with the new diagnoses,” said Sonal Patil, MD. “Peer support interventions have been suggested by the World Health Organization as a way to improve self-care behaviors of diabetic patients, but an adequate review of the effectiveness of such interventions has not happened.”
Patil and her colleagues analyzed results from 17 trials on peer support interventions conducted from 1960 to 2015. They compared blood sugar levels of patients who received peer support to those who received similar care but did not participate in peer interventions. Patil found that peer support interventions modestly improved patients’ blood sugar levels, with the most significant improvements found in studies with predominantly minority participants.
“Previous research has found that when culturally appropriate health education is provided to people with diabetes who belong to ethnic minority groups, their glycemic control and knowledge of diabetes improves,” Patil said. “Our findings suggest that peer health coaches might provide more culturally appropriate health education in ethnic minority populations, particularly Latino ones.”
Patil also noted that peer support interventions not only help patients with diabetes but also provide benefits to the peers delivering the support.
Additionally, she said that peer support interventions should be done in conjunction with, and not in place of, regular visits with the patient’s health provider.
This article was adapted from information provided by MU Health.