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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC Faculty Member Highlights Efficacy of Peer Support Approaches to Public Health Challenges

On August 24, Annals of Family Medicine published a special Peers for Progress supplement featuring 11 articles that address the reach, implementation and adoption of peer support for patients with diabetes and other health challenges.

[Photo: Dr. Edwin Fisher (right) reviews Peers for Progress educational materials with a staff member in his UNC office.]

Dr. Edwin B. Fisher, professor of health behavior at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and global director of Peers for Progress, conducts peer support projects around the world, working with more than 60 collaborating groups.

Peers for Progress was founded in 2006 to promote peer support as a key part of health, health care, and prevention around the world. The program currently is managed by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation.

The supplement papers include examples of interventions conducted in multiple countries, from enriching patient-centered medical homes through peer support to leading diabetes-control peer support groups.

The compilation also highlights the importance of community health workers, lay health advisers and others who supply basic health needs, provide primary care and conduct targeted health promotion.

Beyond demonstrating the efficacy of peer support, the collected research establishes the feasibility and sustainability of the approach. The supplement also charts key directions for extending peer support as an important public health strategy.

“These findings provide even more evidence that peer support does indeed work,” said Dr. Fisher. “The supplement offers important directions for training peer supporters, extending peer support to all patients – not only those with limited resources – and reaching large groups through primary care, whether in the United States or China.”

On September 8, the journal Health Affairs published another article for which Dr. Fisher is lead author. “Key Features Of Peer Support In Chronic Disease Prevention And Management” provides specific evidence to support both cost-effectiveness and outcome effectiveness of using community health workers to provide social support and enhance health among populations with chronic conditions.

Through examination of previous research conducted by Peers for Progress, the article shares findings on success factors, limiting concerns and challenges for policy makers.

Dr. Fisher joined a forum of authors from the latest issue of Health Affairs at a September 9 briefing in Washington, DC. The group of experts discussed how community interventions can help mitigate the growing burden of non-communicable diseases. The conversation was captured on Twitter under #HA_NCDiseases.

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