Why We Need Friends with Diabetes (FWD)

March 17, 2021

Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES

When you live with diabetes, which is something that doesn’t ever go away, requires constant monitoring and decision-making, and it doesn’t always play by the rules … having friends who really “get it” can truly be life changing. It helps to have someone you can text or call when your blood sugars are out of whack no matter what you do. It is nice to have someone with whom you can share hilarious low BG stories with, like when you cried over literal spilled milk (true story). I can personally say for me, my friends with diabetes (aka “FWD”) have helped me stay resilient and keep on keeping-on in my diabetes care.

Considering that most people with type 1 diabetes in the United States are not meeting HbA1C goals1, it seems that the care model that we have in the U.S. is not working for most people living with diabetes. Although there are many issues that need addressed, one that is relatively inexpensive and can benefit is Peer Support.2

Project SEED (Support, Education, and Evaluation in Diabetes) looked at having peer leader-led diabetes self-management support groups for people with diabetes.2 There were 221 people in the study across 6 primary care practices; 119 were randomized to the group visits while 102 were used as a control group with the same visits but only with diabetes educators, not peers.2 At the end of the study, the HbA1C results were both improved and on top of that, those who participated in the peer-led groups had 4.3 times less diabetes distress than the control group.2

Another study conducted in rural Alabama showed that for 360 adults with type 2 diabetes, who were predominantly African-American and had minimal or greater depressive symptoms, peer support helped decrease hospitalization and Emergency Room Visits.3 Interestingly, it did not help decrease acute care and hospitalization for those without depressive symptoms.3

There have also been multiple articles published about benefits of attending diabetes camp for people with diabetes, in which they get to interact with peers who also have diabetes. In a meta-analysis published in November 2020, 33 diabetes camp studies were analyzed and the studies showed a decrease in Hemoglobin A1C, an increase in diabetes knowledge, and a slight improvement in quality of life and anxiety.4

I have met many adults with diabetes who did not have the opportunity to meet others with diabetes and have said that they wished they had things like diabetes camps or Friends for Life conferences when they were younger to help them. My personal and professional goal is that everyone, caregivers, loved ones, and people with diabetes, can find someone who understands what they are going through so that they can have understanding and uplifting conversations that help them get through the mucky world of diabetes The research shows that peer support helps, and CWD is dedicated to providing that for as many people as possible.

1. State of Type 1 Diabetes Management and Outcomes from the T1D Exchange 2016-2018: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30657336/
2. Integration and Utilization of Peer Leaders for Diabetes Self-Management Support: Results form Project SEED (Support, Education, and Evaluation in Diabetes): https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29806788/
3. Impact of Peer Support on Acute Care Visits and Hospitalizations for individuals with Diabetes and Depressive Symptoms: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463553/
4. Changes in glycated hemoglobin, diabetes knowledge, quality of life and anxiety in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes attending summer camps: A systematic review and meta-analysis: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/pedi.13147