Peer Support in Health Evidence to Action

Major reviews document that peer support provided by “community health workers”, “promotores”, etc. make important contributions to health, health care and prevention (Viswanathan et al. Med Care 2010 48, 792-808; Gibbons et al. Prog Community Health Partnersh 2007 1, 371-381; Swider. Public Health Nurs 2002 19, 11-20; Perry et al. Annu Rev Public Health 2014 35).In diabetes management, 19 of 20 articles published between 2000 and 2012 showed signifi cant evidence of benefits of peer support.
Among 14 of the 20 diabetes papers that reported pre- and post-measures, the average HbA1c declined from 8.63% before intervention to 7.77% after intervention (p = 0.001) (Linnan et al. Am J Health Promot 2013 28, TAHP2-10).

Th is report shows that peer support works and goes on to highlight:

  • The unique strengths peers can bring to health promotion and health care
  • The importance of the community-grounded nature of peer support and its versatility in ranging from individuals to families to organizational settings to neighborhoods and communities
  • The value of peer support in providing a point to which individuals can turn for feeling understood and helped within the contexts and settings of their own lives
  • How peer support can be defined and standardized while remaining flexible and responsive to the people and communities it serves
  • The importance of peer support as a way of reaching those too often passed over by prevention and health care
  • Growing emphasis on integrating peer support, behavioral health, and primary care
  • The importance of quality assurance – supervision, management, and organizational factors in providing a setting in which peer support can be effective and sustained
  • Understanding evaluation as a practical part of quality improvement
  • Within the context of 21st century heath care, the connection between sustainability of peer support programs and their ability to extend to whole populations who need them
  • The need for regulatory frameworks that standardize peer support services while allowing for flexibility to match specific needs of unique populations and settings 
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