Peer-mentors help patients succeed with lifestyle changes

One piece of news that came out of the 71st scientific American Diabetes Association conference this past week in San Diego wasn’t scientific at all, but may be one of the most hopeful.

As reported in MedPageToday, unpaid, volunteer patients with diabetes took a 25-30 hour training program to help lead other patients to improve their lifestyle habits. And it was a roaring success. Blood glucose monitoring and physical activity increased, blood pressure and body mass index decreased, people ate more fruits and vegetables and stuck better to their medicine regimen.

“The most important resource in my practice is not my colleagues or other physicians, it is the patients we have in our center,” said Garry Tobin, MD, associate professor of medicine at Washington University. “We have patients who have had diabetes 50 years and that experience has been able to make them successful in controlling their disease, and this gives them the opportunity to go back out into the community and be successful in helping other people.”

Martin Abrahamson, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Joslin Clinic/Harvard Medical School, Boston said, “We are looking into doing similar programs among our patients.”

In the US where there are 26 million people with diabetes and 80 million with pre-diabetes and only 15,000 diabetes educators and less and less endocrinologists coming out of med school every year, education will have to come from another source – successful patients.

If you don’t know, there is a program called the A1C Champions, which I belong to. If you are a health care provider working with diabetes patients, check it out. It’s free and I can tell you from personal experience – the power of patients hearing the same thing you’ve told them, but from a patient living successfully with diabetes, becomes a source of motivation and inspiration, and often moves patients to action they wouldn’t otherwise take.

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