Ongoing peer support can have a positive impact on the emotional and physical health of people with diabetes and, whenever possible, should be integrated into diabetes care.
That’s among the recommendations presented in a “Perspectives in Practice” article co-authored by Saratoga Hospital’s Lisa Hodgson and published in the December 2019 issue of The Diabetes Educator. The peer-reviewed bimonthly journal focuses on the science and art of diabetes management.
A national leader in diabetes self-management education and support, Hodgson is the clinical nutrition manager at Saratoga Hospital, a registered dietitian, certified dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. She is the second of eight co-authors of “From the American Association of Diabetes Educators: The Role and Value of Ongoing and Peer Support in Diabetes Care and Education.”
As clinical nutrition manager at Saratoga Hospital, Hodgson oversees a team of 20 nutritional professionals who work with patients in primary care and endocrinology practices, Saratoga Community Health Center, Saratoga Bariatric Surgery Center and other hospital locations. She also serves on the Saratoga County Prediabetes Coalition and on the board of directors of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
The article reports the findings of a national survey of accredited diabetes self-management education and support programs and emphasizes the vital role of support—from peers, healthcare providers, family and friends and community leaders—in helping those with diabetes meet the challenges of managing their chronic health condition.
The article has implications for diabetes educators and other healthcare professionals who work with the more than 20 million Americans who have been diagnosed with diabetes. In addition, although the article focuses on diabetes care, many of the recommendations could benefit people with other chronic conditions.
“One of the most significant messages is the importance of including support strategies for anyone who is living with a chronic disease,” Hodgson said. “The longer the duration, the more an individual will need support and the more likely the nature of that support will change over time.”
The best way to understand and meet the needs of those with diabetes “is to listen to the people who are living the experience day to day,” Hodgson added.
As part of her research, Hodgson reviewed social media sites and participated in and moderated online chat sessions for people with diabetes. Those interactions have shaped her perspective and practice.
“I’ve become an even stronger advocate for making sure we include ongoing support as part of our programs at Saratoga Hospital,” Hodgson said.
She also advocates for mutual respect between the peer support community and healthcare providers. “Both groups bring enormous value and can do even more if we stay focused on our common goal of supporting the individuals who are living each day with the challenge of managing diabetes,” Hodgson said.