Diabetes control with reciprocal peer support versus nurse care management: a randomized trial

Ann Intern Med. 2010 Oct 19;153(8):507-15. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-8-201010190-00007.


Background: Resource barriers complicate diabetes care management. Support from peers may help patients manage their diabetes.

Objective: To compare a reciprocal peer-support (RPS) program with nurse care management (NCM).

Design: Randomized, controlled trial. (ClinicalTrials.gov registration number: NCT00320112)

Setting: 2 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities.

Patients: 244 men with hemoglobin A(1c) (HbA(1c)) levels greater than 7.5% during the previous 6 months.

Measurements: The primary outcome was 6-month change in HbA(1c) level. Secondary outcomes were changes in insulin therapy; blood pressure; and patient reports of medication adherence, diabetes-related support, and emotional distress.

Intervention: Patients in the RPS group attended an initial group session to set diabetes-related behavioral goals, receive peer communication skills training, and be paired with another age-matched peer patient. Peers were encouraged to talk weekly using a telephone platform that recorded call occurrence and provided reminders to promote peer contact. These patients could also participate in optional group sessions at 1, 3, and 6 months. Patients in the NCM group attended a 1.5-hour educational session and were assigned to a nurse care manager.

Results: Of the 244 patients enrolled, 216 (89%) completed the HbA(1c) assessments and 231 (95%) completed the survey assessments at 6 months. Mean HbA(1c) level decreased from 8.02% to 7.73% (change, -0.29%) in the RPS group and increased from 7.93% to 8.22% (change, 0.29%) in the NCM group. The difference in HbA(1c) change between groups was 0.58% (P = 0.004). Among patients with a baseline HbA(1c) level greater than 8.0%, those in the RPS group had a mean decrease of 0.88%, compared with a 0.07% decrease among those in the NCM group (between-group difference, 0.81%; P < 0.001). Eight patients in the RPS group started insulin therapy, compared with 1 patient in the NCM group (P = 0.020). Groups did not differ in blood pressure, self-reported medication adherence, or diabetes-specific distress, but the RPS group reported improvement in diabetes social support.

Limitation: The study included only male veterans and lasted only 6 months.

Conclusion: Reciprocal peer support holds promise as a method for diabetes care management.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / nursing*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / therapy
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence
  • Motivation
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Telephone
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Insulin

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00320112