Peer coaches to improve diabetes outcomes in rural Alabama: A cluster randomized trial

Monika M. Safford*, Susan Andreae, Andrea L. Cherrington, Michelle Y. Martin, Jewell Halanych, Marquita Lewis, Ashruta Patel, Ethel Johnson, Debra Clark, Christopher Gamboa, Joshua S. Richman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


PURPOSE It is unclear whether peer coaching is effective in minority populations living with diabetes in hard-to-reach, under-resourced areas such as the rural South. We examined the effect of an innovative peer-coaching intervention plus brief education vs brief education alone on diabetes outcomes. METHODS This was a community-engaged, cluster-randomized, controlled trial with primary care practices and their surrounding communities serving as clusters. The trial enrolled 424 participants, with 360 completing baseline and follow-up data collection (84.9% retention). The primary outcomes were change in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), systolic blood pressure (BP), low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), body mass index (BMI), and quality of life, with diabetes distress and patient activation as secondary outcomes. Peer coaches were trained for 2 days in community settings; the training emphasized motivational interviewing skills, diabetes basics, and goal setting. All participants received a 1-hour diabetes education class and a personalized diabetes report card at baseline. Intervention arm participants were also paired with peer coaches; the protocol called for telephone interactions weekly for the first 8 weeks, then monthly for a total of 10 months. RESULTS Due to real-world constraints, follow-up was protracted, and intervention effects varied over time. The analysis that included the 68% of participants followed up by 15 months showed only a significant increase in patient activation in the intervention group. The analysis that included all participants who eventually completed follow-up revealed that intervention arm participants had significant differences in changes in systolic BP (P =.047), BMI (P =.02), quality of life (P =.003), diabetes distress (P =.004), and patient activation (P =.03), but not in HbA1c (P =.14) or LDL-C (P =.97). CONCLUSION Telephone-delivered peer coaching holds promise to improve health for individuals with diabetes living in under-resourced areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S18-S26
JournalAnnals of family medicine
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Diabetes
  • Peer health coaching
  • Primary care
  • Self-management support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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