Background: Compared with white persons, African Americans have a greater incidence of diabetes, decreased control, and higher rates of microvascular complications. A peer mentorship model could be a scalable approach to improving control in this population and reducing disparities in diabetic outcomes.
Objective: To determine whether peer mentors or financial incentives are superior to usual care in helping African American veterans decrease their hemoglobin A(1c) (HbA(1c)) levels.
Design: A 6-month randomized, controlled trial. (ClinicalTrials.gov registration number: NCT01125956)
Setting: Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Patients: African American veterans aged 50 to 70 years with persistently poor diabetes control.
Intervention: 118 patients were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: usual care, a peer mentoring group, and a financial incentives group. Usual care patients were notified of their starting HbA(1c) level and recommended goals for HbA(1c). Those in the peer mentoring group were assigned a mentor who formerly had poor glycemic control but now had good control (HbA(1c) level ≤7.5%). The mentor was asked to talk with the patient at least once per week. Peer mentors were matched by race, sex, and age. Patients in the financial incentive group could earn $100 by decreasing their HbA(1c) level by 1% and $200 by decreasing it by 2% or to an HbA(1c) level of 6.5%.
Measurements: Change in HbA(1c) level at 6 months.
Results: Mentors and mentees talked the most in the first month (mean calls, 4; range, 0 to 30), but calls decreased to a mean of 2 calls (range, 0 to 10) by the sixth month. Levels of HbA(1c) decreased from 9.9% to 9.8% in the control group, from 9.8% to 8.7% in the peer mentor group, and from 9.5% to 9.1% in the financial incentive group. Mean change in HbA(1c) level from baseline to 6 months relative to control was -1.07% (95% CI, -1.84% to -0.31%) in the peer mentor group and -0.45% (CI, -1.23% to 0.32%) in the financial incentive group.
Limitation: The study included only veterans and lasted only 6 months.
Conclusion: Peer mentorship improved glucose control in a cohort of African American veterans with diabetes.
Primary funding source: National Institute on Aging Roybal Center.