By nature, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of peer support, since how it is implemented is very dependent on the local context. For example, if the existing healthcare system is very good, peer support will have limited additional effect, compared to a setting where local healthcare is poor. Nonetheless, overall, there is some emerging evidence that peer support in diabetes can be effective in a number of contexts.
The RAPSID study has been testing whether peer support can help people to manage their type 2 diabetes better. Publication of the main results is pending. More detail on the pilot study for the RAPSID project can be found in the following paper:
Simmons D, Cohn S; Bunn C, Birch K, Donald S, Paddison C, Ward C, Robins P, Prevost A.T, Graffy J. (2013) Testing a peer support intervention for people with type 2 diabetes: a pilot randomised controlled trial, BMC Family Practice. 14(5).
Below we have listed other papers that have investigated the effectiveness of peer support:
A recent systematic review from Dale, Williams and Bowyer (2011) found that peer support in diabetes was associated with statistically significant improvements in glycaemic control, blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI/weight, physical activity, self-efficacy, depression and perceived social support.
A review of controlled intervention studies by van Dam et al. (2005) showed that social support including peer support in type 2 diabetes can affect patient self-care and diabetes outcomes.
In a review of volunteer-based peer support interventions in diabetes, Tang et al. (2011) concluded that there is promising though limited evidence for such interventions.