African American Veterans with Diabetes Benefit from “Mentors”


VA Study Highlights Safe, Effective Treatment


WASHINGTON–African American Veterans with hard-to-control diabetes made significant gains in keeping their blood sugar under control after working with “mentors” with similar health problems, according to a recent study by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This study is another example of the benefits VA research brings to all Americans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “The researchers have shown the potential for the effectiveness of a safe, low-tech approach that can significantly enhance the quality of life for these Veterans.”

Results of the study by the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Center appear in the March 20 Annals of Internal Medicine.  About one in five Veterans who receives care from VA has diabetes. The study included 118 African American Veterans, all of whom were having trouble controlling their diabetes.

Because the study lasted only six months and the study population of 118 people was relatively small, the authors say further research is needed. The new results confirm past studies in which mentoring helped patients with diabetes—particularly minorities—improve their medication adherence, diet, exercise, blood glucose monitoring, and glucose control.

“Peer mentoring appears to be an excellent way to enhance self-management for this group of patients,” says lead author Dr. Judith Long, an internist at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. She also noted social support is a critical factor in helping patients manage chronic illness.

The study was conducted by researchers with VA’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, based in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, along with colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University. Funding was provided by VA and the National Institute on Aging.

For more information on VA research, visit


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