Similar to the proverb: 'it takes a village to raise a child', a nurturing community is at the heart of this support based model; it provides one with the knowledge that they are indeed not alone.
Benefits of a support system may not be obvious, but they clearly make a difference on measurable statistics. People living with chronic disease need more than medical care; they need guidance and support as they master the skills to manage their disease.
What Is Peer Support?
Peer support revolves around staying connected with others—this includes family and friends, people living lives parallel to yours, or with those in the business of helping people live positively with chronic disease.
Studies have found that 45 percent of the U.S. population lives with chronic disease, and about half of this group has more than one diagnosis. By 2015, 150 million people will be diagnosed with a chronic condition, according to Building Peer Support Programs.
Peers For Progress defines peer support as "practical, social, emotional, ongoing support from a person who shares similar experiences with a disease or health problem."
Research On Peer Support
A recent study analyzed six aspects of diabetes care and how they might be influenced by positive peer support:
1. Self-care (diabetes tasks)
2. Blood sugar control
3. Emotional status and social support
4. Connections to health care providers
5. Longevity of interventions (past 18 months)
This unique study took place in Uganda with type 2 diabetics. This short-term support group study unearthed important impacts that peer support can have on people living with diabetes.
Most impressively, the study reports significant changes in HgbA1c levels; "average HbA1c levels dropped from "11.1 percent at baseline to 8.3 percent following commencement of the study, representing a drop of 2.8 percent" according to Diabetes in Control.
This study demonstrated successful diabetes control outcomes and also measurable improvements in blood pressure reduction and improvements in diet. One of the most promising results indicates that patients continued with positive disease management up to a year and half after the study's interventions.
Online Peer Support
In this day and age it's so easier to virtually meet others living with type 1, type 1.5 or type 2 diabetes. Between blogs, websites, national organizations, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets — if you're motivated, you can weave yourself into this web quite easily.
In fact, if you're reading this article you are enmeshed in positive peer support through Diabetic Connect!
Here's one things we know for sure — tapping into available resources is vital to benefit fully from the support of others. Community begins at home for some, but support needn't come from family members alone, total strangers can be just as effective.