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New Initiatives

Using peer mentors to support PACT efforts to improve glucose control


Veterans Glenn Williams (left) and Ronald Ross (right) are taking part in a study at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center on peer mentoring to help with diabetes management. Here, they meet with study coordinator Kirsten Rogers.
Veterans Glenn Williams (left) and Ronald Ross (right) are taking part in a study at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center on peer mentoring to help with diabetes management. Here, they meet with study coordinator Kirsten Rogers. (Photo by Tommy Leonardi)

Veterans Glenn Williams (left) and Ronald Ross (right) are taking part in a study at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center on peer mentoring to help with diabetes management. Here, they meet with study coordinator Kirsten Rogers. (Photo by Tommy Leonardi)

The prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. is expected to rise from 14 to 21 percent by 2050. A recent VAstudy, conducted by VA's Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP), based in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, found that peer support, especially in the form of mentors, can help African American Veterans who find it difficult to control their diabetes.

CHERP researchers believe that peer mentors may be especially effective for VA patients, because the sense of camaraderie is strong in Veterans, and many patients lack other social support. The researchers also believe that peer support models may be effective in Veterans from all racial groups, not just African Americans.

Accordingly, a CHERP team, led by Judith A. Long, MD, is now recruiting patients for a randomized controlled trial of Veterans whose diabetes is poorly controlled. Some of these Veterans will be first enrolled as mentees in a program to help diabetic Veterans, and then these diabetic Veterans themselves will enroll as mentors to other diabetic Veterans.

The study will test the effectiveness of these peer mentors in a racially mixed population. It will also compare the effectiveness of peer mentoring with "usual care" on outcomes related to diabetes, including blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, quality of life, and depression.



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