Diabetes Buddies: Peer Support Through a Mobile Phone Buddy System

Rotheram-Borus M.J. ; Tomlinson M. ; Gwegwe M. ; Comulada W.S. ; Kaufman N. ; Keim M. (2012)

Article

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to test the feasibility and acceptability of a mobile phone-based peer support intervention among women in resource-poor settings to self-manage their diabetes. Secondary goals were to evaluate the intervention's effectiveness to motivate diabetes-related health choices. Methods: Women with diabetes (n = 22) in Cape Town, South Africa, participated in a 12-week program focused on providing and applying knowledge of health routines to manage diabetes. Women were linked with a buddy via a mobile phone for support and were questioned daily about a health behavior via text message. Women were assessed at recruitment and then 3 and 6 months later by a trained interviewer using a mobile phone for data collection. The women were evaluated on technology uptake, reduction of body mass index, blood glucose levels, and increases in positive coping and general health-seeking behaviors. Results: Women exchanged 16 739 text messages to buddies and received 3144 texts from the project. Women responded to 29% of texted questions (n = 1321/14 582). Women attended at least 9 of 12 possible intervention sessions; a third attended all 12 sessions (n = 8/22). Between baseline and 3 months, women increased their sleep and reported a higher level of positive action and social support coping, yet blood glucose increased by 3.3 points. From 3 to 6 months, spiritual hope decreased and diastolic blood pressure increased. One year later, the 22 women continue to attend meetings. Conclusions: Mobile phones are an easy and reliable way to provide peer support and disseminate health messages. Both positive and negative changes were observed in this pilot study. © 2012 The Author(s).

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