Building Peer Support Programs to Manage Chronic Disease: Seven Models for Success

Michele Heisler, MD, MPA

Group visits, peer coaches, phone and Internet support, and self-management training are some of the peer support programs that are found to be as effective as they are affordable in managing chronic diseases.

December 2006

Research shows that when chronically ill patients fail to follow recommended treatment — by not adhering to medication regimens or diet and exercise programs, for example — their health suffers, sometimes significantly. However, when patients get the support they need to master and sustain self-management, there are potential benefits for both individual health and the overall health care system.

This CHCF-funded report explores peer support as a tool for improving the self-management of chronic diseases and finds that well-designed peer support interventions can be as effective as they are affordable.

The report provides an overview of seven peer support models, including case studies and information on costs and reimbursements. The selected models cover support strategies that include professional-led group visits, peer mentors, reciprocal peer partnerships, and email- or web-based exchanges.

The author concludes that there is still much to learn about what makes programs effective, including how best to integrate peer support interventions into other clinical services. To offer a guide, the report includes lessons and recommendations for developing, implementing, and evaluating peer support interventions.

The complete report is available under Document Downloads.