Strengthening Public Health Through Peer Support Programs

In his presidential proclamation declaring April 6–12 National Public Health Week, President Obama said, “Public health is the foundation for a brighter tomorrow.” He urged all Americans to take action to improve the health of our country.

In that spirit, earlier this week close to 60 public health experts from across the country gathered at NCLR’s headquarters in Washington, DC, to discuss how peer support provided by community health workers, or promotores de salud, and other nontraditional health workers can improve primary care in the U.S.

The conference, “Peer Support in the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and Primary Care,” was co-hosted by Peers for Progress, the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, and NCLR. Its objective was to identify and promote effective models of peer support as a way to engage individuals to become more involved in the health prevention and chronic disease management activities of their primary care center. Substantial research points to the benefits of peer support as a way to engage people (including those for whom care services too often fail to reach), educate them on how to prevent and manage disease, and cut down on unnecessary, costly care. Peer support is also effective because it incorporates patients’ perspectives, as well as those of their families, homes, and communities. Ten model programs were featured at the conference.

One program, Alivio Medical Center’s Mi Salud es Primero, was able to reach 90 percent of all patients with type 2 diabetes with peer support. The promotores de salud provided emotional and social support, taught one-on-one and group educational sessions, and linked patients to resources in the community. As a result, HbA1c blood sugar levels declined from 8.26 percent to 8.10 percent across the entire population, which was a very positive finding.

These model programs demonstrate how peer support can serve even more people. Lessons learned and challenges overcome were discussed and will be published in a conference report later this month.

NCLR applauds the many experts in the health care field who promote peer support programs that serve patients well throughout our nation. We can strengthen public health and help bring about a brighter tomorrow by continuing to integrate peer supporters with primary care teams for the benefit of patients everywhere.

Together We Can Beat Diabetes in Our Communities

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the risk of diabetes can vary among Hispanic subgroups in the United States. However, Latinos overall are at greater risk for diabetes than non-Hispanic Whites. The ADA refers to a 2014 study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that examines the prevalence of diabetes in the Latino community—at nearly 17 percent (including an estimate of those who are not yet diagnosed)—compared with just over 10 percent among non-Hispanic Whites.

Nearly 80 percent of Latinos in the U.S. are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. NCLR is working with several partners to address the issues of nutrition and health within the Latino community:

  • Community organizations throughout the nation are part of NCLR’s Comprando Rico y Sano program that provides information and resources to boost healthy eating and reduce hunger among Latinos. Visit our web page to find a local group near you, healthy recipes that are easy and affordable, and information on enrolling in a federal nutrition assistance program.
  • The YMCA has a coalition that includes NCLR and works to increase awareness of diabetes and diabetes prevention. Are you one of the 86 million Americans with prediabetes? Take this quick online diabetes screening test to assess your risk and see if you should talk to a doctor. Check out information from the ADA on what you can do to lower your risk or delay getting type 2 diabetes.
  • NCLR also works with Peers for Progress to help more people learn about the effectiveness of peer support programs in managing chronic diseases including diabetes. Watch this video (also below) and learn how community-focused and culture-specific peer support programs can help diabetes patients experience improved, longer-lasting health outcomes.

Want to learn more? Join us for a Twitter chat at 2 p.m. EDT on Diabetes Alert Day—Tuesday, March 24—and bring your questions and comments for NCLR health experts and others at #DiabetesAlert.

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A Chat About the Role of Community Health Workers in Communities of Color: Highlights

Today NCLR joined our friends at Peers for Progress and Black Women’s Health Imperative for a twitter chat on how community health workers are vital to improving minority health. We’ve put together some highlights for you. Thanks to Black Women’s Health Imperative and Peers for Progress for working to produce this spirite Twitter chat today!

NCLR Hosts Conference on Community Health Worker Programs

This week, NCLR, along with Peers for Progress, a program of the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, hosted experts from across the country for a convening titled, “National Consensus Conference: Implementation and Dissemination Issues for Peer Support/Community Health Worker/Promotora de Salud Interventions and the Affordable Care Act”.

The National Peer Support Collaborative Learning Network, a collaboration of Peers for Progress and NCLR supported by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Together on Diabetes Initiative, has been the vehicle that for the work we have done over the last couple of years that we discussed during the convening.

For example, one of the objectives of the meeting was to review the Call to Action on Peer Support under the Affordable Care Act. Over the last several months, Harvard Center for Health Law Policy & Innovation, Peers for Progress, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and NCLR drafted a Call to Action highlighting opportunities under the Affordable Care Act to integrate and implement peer support or community health worker programs into preventative services. We are currently seeking other organizations to endorse the document and help us to spread the word. If your organization is interest in endorsing this document, please contact Manuela McDonough at mmcdonough@nclr.org

Another objective of the convening was to organize visits with Representatives and Senators on Capitol Hill. We conducted visits with legislative staff from the offices of Senators Durbin, Franken, and Brown. It was great to meet with them to increase awareness and support of peer support/CHW programs and to advocate for continued funding of the Affordable Care Act.