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Peer-Mentoring Diabetes Management May Help Teens and Young Adults

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Peer-Mentoring Diabetes Management May Help Teens and Young Adults
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Insulin injections, carbohydrate calculations and blood glucose tests are needed to manage type 1 diabetes. This daily, lifelong effort to keep the disease under control can be daunting to anyone, particularly for teenagers and young adults.

A recent study entitled, “Patient Perspectives on Peer MentoringType 1 Diabetes Management in Adolescents and Young Adults,” published in the February issue of the The Diabetes Educator explains that almost a third of the teens and young adults that were assessed and surveyed by the researchers said that there are social barriers to diabetes management such as the embarrassment of testing blood glucose in front of their peers in very tight, inflexible schedules. Most of those surveyed did not exhibit optimal management behavior for their disease, and expressed their interests in a peer mentoring program that could help them improve control over their condition.

The study was led and authored by Yang Lu, PhD, from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed). “Because previous studies found peer mentoring reduced alcohol and drug abuse among teens and improved diabetes management among adults, we wanted to determine if teens and young adults with type 1 diabetes would be receptive to a peer mentoring program,” Lu explained. “A majority of the adolescents and young adults in our study were interested in peer mentoring to improve diabetes management and glycemic control. These findings open the door for determining the best means for helping teens and young adults improve their diabetes management and long-term health.”

In the study, 54 adolescents (13 to 18 years) and 46 young adults (19 to 25 years) were surveyed about how they manage their disease, and if they were interested in a peer mentoring program. About 78 percent of the teenagers and 89 percent of the young adults failed to meet the ideal diabetes management recommended by the American Diabetes Association.  Also, 87 percent of the young adults and 57 percent of the teens were interested in a peer mentoring program.

“If they haven’t found support among their friends and family members, the teens may not have a frame of reference for understanding how they could benefit from a mentor,” Dr. Lu concluded. “But they may well benefit as much as teens who are interested in having a mentor. We may need innovative incentives to make mentoring attractive to adolescents who are not accustomed to talking with others about the challenges of type 1 diabetes, or we may need to find other means to improve their disease management.”

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