This project explored whether non-diabetic high school students could serve as self-management coaches for diabetic family members after learning about the disease and developing communication and coaching skills in a structured school program.
Self-management is an essential part of managing chronic disease, and family members can support it both through general awareness and by helping their chronically ill relatives set health-related goals and create and carry out action plans. One community-based strategy of interest to public health professionals is school-based interventions to train young family members to play this role.
Recognizing that chronic disease is a particular burden for members of underserved ethnic minority communities, researchers funded by the California Health Care Foundation sought to determine whether high school students in East Palo Alto could acquire the knowledge and communication skills needed to help diabetic family members manage their condition.
The school-based intervention was modeled on the Stanford University Diabetes Self-Management Program, developed by Dr. Kate Lorig of Stanford. In the East Palo Alto Academy project, three groups of 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-grade student volunteers, 23 in all, participated in an eight-week training program for a trimester each.
Pre- and post-tests and homework showed that the students' knowledge of diabetes increased significantly as a result of the program, and role-playing exercises demonstrated that their communication skills improved. However, collecting data from diabetic family members proved more difficult than the researchers anticipated, as did recruitment and retention of student participants.
An overview of the project is available as a Document Download.