Global Evidence for Peer Support: Humanizing Health Care
Peers for Progress, a program of the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, today announced the publication of its latest report, “Global Evidence for Peer Support: Humanizing Health Care“.
The report compiles research presented at a recent conference hosted by Peers for Progress and the National Council of La Raza. The conference brought together international leaders in health care and public health to discuss the latest findings on peer support programs and explore new areas for research, dissemination and implementation of peer support programs.
Peer support helps individuals take the plans they develop in the doctor’s office and implement them in their daily lives. Central to the peer support model is the building of strong social and emotional support networks that encourage healthy behaviors and prevent disease. During the conference, key voices provided additional perspective on the value of these programs, answering the question, “What is Peer Support?”
“Peer support, in all of its forms, achieves concrete benefits while being a strong humanizing force in health care,” said Edwin B. Fisher, global director of Peers for Progress. “By helping people in the round-the-clock tasks of staying healthy and linking them to the care they need, peer support helps put people at the center of their health care team.”
Over a six year period, Peers for Progress supported projects ranging from randomized-controlled trials to qualitative studies. All demonstrated strong evidence that peer support is not only successful in its reach and engagement of community members, but that peer support is also feasible, effective and sustainable. For example, in studies across 14 sites in nine countries on six continents, peer support interventions for diabetes consistently improved patient outcomes on a range of key indicators, such as blood glucose control, emotional distress, hospital readmissions and quality of life.
In addition to improving patient outcomes, peer support adds value to health care systems by improving quality of care, lowering costs and improving the health of populations, even in rural or impoverished communities.
“Around the world, the lack of resources and lower income levels means that we have to look for innovative ways to manage populations of people with diabetes,” said Jean Claude Mbanya, past president of the International Diabetes Federation. “Culturally adapted, community-based peer support really works – and it works for people from all different backgrounds.”
Research presented at the conference focused on applications to diabetes care, but the concerns of Peers for Progress extend to asthma, heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health and mental health. Organizing peer support by its key functions (e.g., emotional support, link to clinical care) provides a base for standardizing what peer support is, while allowing for adaptation to specific health conditions, cultures and settings.
“The approach that peer support programs take has been tremendously effective for Latinos here in the U.S. who need culturally competent and linguistically appropriate assistance and information to better manage their chronic diseases. By bringing these researchers together from around the world to share best practices, NCLR hopes that stronger promotores programs will emerge. As the Latino population grows, we hope to see a greater focus on using peer support programs to help people improve their health,” said A. Manuela McDonough, the associate director of the Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR.
The evidence from the projects supported by Peers for Progress shows that peer support is a practical, affordable and popular model for health promotion and chronic disease self-management. Effective and humanizing, peer support can meet present and future health care needs by facilitating the delivery of the right care at the right time at the right cost.