Do peer support groups help in diabetes treatment?

January 01, 0001

Do peer support groups help in diabetes treatment?

Diabetes is a growing problem worldwide, and cost-effective treatments are always sought. These Irish researcher examined whether there was a benefit to using peer support groups in treating diabetic patients via a cluster randomized controlled trial. They enrolled diabetic patients from 20 different Irish practices (192 in intervention group, 203 in control group, 29 peer supporters). The practices introduced a standardized diabetic care system. The peer support intervention was comprised of training for peer supporters, nine peer led group meetings, and continued over a two year period.

The researchers found: "There was no difference between intervention and control patients at baseline. All practices and 85% (337) of patients were followed up. At two year follow-up, there were no significant differences in HbA1c (mean difference -0.08), systolic blood pressure (-3.9 mm Hg), total cholesterol concentration (-0.03 mmol/L), or wellbeing scores (-0.7). While there was a trend towards decreases in the proportion of patients with poorly controlled risk factors at follow-up, particularly for systolic blood pressure (52% (87/166) more than 130 mm Hg in intervention v 61% (103/169) >130 mm Hg in control), these changes were not significant. The process evaluation indicated that the intervention was generally delivered as intended, though 18% (35) of patients in the intervention group never attended any group meetings."

The researchers concluded: "A group based peer support intervention is feasible in general practice settings, but the intervention was not effective when targeted at all patients with type 2 diabetes. While there was a trend towards improvements of clinical outcomes, the results do not support the widespread adoption of peer support."

This study finds no evidence of benefit to peer support groups in the treatment of diabetes

For the full abstract, click here.

BMJ 342:d715, 15 November 2011
© 2011 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd.
Peer support for patients with type 2 diabetes: cluster randomised controlled trial. S M Smith, G Paul, A Kelly, D L Whitford, E O’Shea, T O’Dowd. Correspondence to S M Smith: [email protected]

Category: T. Endocrine/Metabolic/Nutritional. Keywords: diabetes, HbA1c, blood pressure, cholesterol, peer support group, randomized controlled trial, journal watch.
Synopsis edited by Dr Paul Schaefer, Toledo, Ohio. Posted on Global Family Doctor 1 March 2011

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.