Peers may be more approachable and can relate to the particular living circumstances one experiences. In well-resourced countries, people have opportunities for learning diabetes self-management; however, empathy may be more helpful when practical barriers arise. Little is published in medical literature about how to foster diabetes peer support and what is published is often limited to English language. Among those programs available, commonalities are readily seen. There is significant evidence that well-informed people cope better with adapting their lifestyle to medical regimens.
Professionally delivered diabetes education has been well defined, but there may be additional benefit from learning from those who are living the experience everyday regarding how to navigate health care systems, handle finances, deal with natural emotions or family relations. Diabetes is epidemic and worldwide. There will never be sufficient traditional health care services to meet all future patients needs. While we persist in training health care professionals to deliver better diabetes care, we can explore how to mobilize willing volunteers to provide additional ongoing support to people with diabetes, where they live and work.
While the characteristics of a peer educator have been defined slightly differently by several programs, there is agreement across programs that they need to be able to communicate clearly, they need to be willing to learn, they need to have confidence and they need to be flexible and dependable.