In a new article in JAMA Network Open, my colleagues and I evaluated two different peer mentor models for patients with diabetes at the VA. In a randomized clinical trial, having a peer mentor marginally helped patients with high starting A1c values improve their glucose control, but these effects did not persist at 12 months. Using past mentees as mentors was not effective, especially if the past mentee had not improved their glucose control when they were a mentee.

What can we glean from these findings? Mentors in this model need to have gained some mastery of their disease to be effective. Mentors in our study received a 1-time, 1-hour training session with monthly reinforcement sessions from research staff. The intervention was designed to make it easier to implement than other peer mentoring programs that included 3-hour trainings. But it may be the case that a higher-touch intervention for mentors is needed to improve diabetes outcomes. In a study of a more intensive peer mentoring program published earlier in Diabetes Educator, we did see persistent reductions in A1c values at 12 months. In that study, the mentors received more training, supervision, and support.

Clearly, all peer mentoring models are not alike. More research is needed to determine how best to facilitate mentor and mentee engagement and optimal practices to create long-term sustainable change.

The study, Effect of Peer Mentors in Diabetes Self-management vs Usual Care on Outcomes in US Veterans With Type 2 Diabetes, was published in JAMA Network Open on September 11, 2020. Authors include Judith A. Long, Valerie S. Ganetsky, Anne Canamucio, Tanisha N. Dicks, Michele Heisler, and Steven C. Marcus.