Accelerating Best Practices in Peer Support Around the World

Peer Support Core of the Michigan CDTR

Peer Support Core of the Michigan Center for Diabetes Translational Research



The UNC–UM Peer Support Core is designed to foster rigorous translational research on peer support in diabetes prevention and management (support and encouragement delivered by nonprofessionals through diverse settings and modalities). The Core is responsive to the dramatic increase in research utilizing peer support as a strategy for diabetes prevention and management and the presence of unusual strength in peer support research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Peers for Progress, Dr. Fisher and colleagues) and at the University of Michigan (Dr. Heisler and colleagues). As a national translational research core, the UNC–UM Peer Support Core networks with other CDTR researchers and those at other universities interested in or doing research using peer support. The Core also works closely with The Curtis Center for Health Equity Research and Training in the University of Michigan School of Social Work to leverage community, peer, and family supports in diabetes translational research.

The Peer Support Core is one of four cores at the Michigan Center for Diabetes Translational Research (the others being Administration, Methods and Measurement, and Intervention and Technology Research). The cores support innovative adaptations of evidence-based approaches to diabetes prevention and control that can be widely disseminated to positively impact clinical and community practice.


Specific Aims of the Core

To provide investigators with access to expertise and resources on peer support in order to promote innovative research that will accelerate the adoption and dissemination of effective and cost-effective peer support interventions.
To provide investigators technical assistance and training in peer support program development, implementation, evaluation, training, and quality improvement.
To strengthen the networking between investigators at Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, and other universities doing research in or interested in research utilizing peer support.


Key Services of the Core


1. Consultation to researchers, research projects at the University of Michigan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and nationally

Offer extended technical assistance, ranging from general planning of how peer support may be appropriate and how it may best be organized, developed, and deployed, to continuing quality improvement and dissemination.

Provide expert consultation to investigators who are developing proposals for external funding.

Consultative webinars for early career investigators and investigators seeking feedback to present works in progress

  • Karen Goldstein, M.D., M.S.P.H., Duke University & Durham V.A. Medical Center. “Peer Support to Promote Physical Activity among Veterans.” (April, 2019)

  • Briana Mezuk, Ph.D., University of Michigan. “Incorporating Alumni Peer Support into the YMCA of Greater Richmond’s Diabetes Self-Management Program.” (October, 2019)

  • Daphne Watkins, Ph.D., University of Michigan. “Systemic Racism, Intersectionality, and Social Justice as Frames for Research on Prevention/Management of Chronic Disease.” (Winter, 2020)

  • Cherie Conley, M.H.S., Ph.D., Duke University. “Dyadic Support as Supplement to Weight Management in African American Churches.” (Spring, 2021)

  • Olayinka Shiyanbola, B.Pharm., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Wisconsin. “Peer Support Especially for Medication Adherence: Supplement to Existing Community Diabetes Management Program.” (Spring, 2021)

2. National Outreach

Share and tailor resources for various forms of peer support interventions in a range of populations and settings.

Core Resources

Facilitate sharing of published papers and reports, training and intervention methods, practice-oriented lessons learned, and other materials of interest to the research and practice communities.

  • Subscribe to our weekly Tuesday Tips for the latest materials of interest

3. National Facilitation of Collaborative Learning Network

A central aim of the Core is to serve as a nationwide resource to diabetes peer support researchers, strengthen collaboration and information exchange among these researchers to strengthen the rigor of the field, and draw more researchers into the field. This has entailed reaching out to researchers at each of the CDTRs and at other US universities with whom Peers for Progress, Dr. Heisler, and Dr. Fisher have previous collaborations and relationships.

  • Diabetes Peer Support Special Interest Group includes representatives from all eight NIDDK-sponsored CDTRs

Annual Working Meeting on Peer Support in Diabetes

The Peer Support Core hosts a yearly working meeting that addresses an important issue in peer support and diabetes. These meetings bring together 15-20 researchers, including distinguished speakers, expert panelists, and representatives from CDTRs.

Past annual meetings:

  • Peer Support, Mental Health, and Diabetes – May 11-12, 2017 (Report)

  • Obesity, Preventing Diabetes, and Peer Support – May 10-11, 2018

  • Peer Support and Social Determinants of Health – May 23-24, 2019

  • Behavioral Economics, Diabetes, and Peer Support – canceled due to COVID



Key Personnel

Michele E. Heisler, MD, MPA Co-Director, UNC-UM Peer Support Core
Edwin B. Fisher, PhD Co-Director, UNC-UM Peer Support Core and Global Director, Peers for Progress
Patrick Yao Tang, MPH Core Manager
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