Communitisation of healthcare: peer support groups for chronic disease care in rural India

Yogesh Jain paediatrician and public health physician, Priyank Jain internal medicine physician

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The management of chronic diseases requires the sustained motivation of patients to engage in long term adherence and periodic review of the treatment plan. Given this, the assumed primacy of doctors and hospitals as providers of care is increasingly being challenged, and recognition is increasing that health outcomes are “co-produced” by healthcare systems and patients.

Peer support is support from people who have the same health condition as the patients they help—they experience the same challenges of living with the same chronic condition. In poorer countries, peer support groups have been used for mental illness and HIV but with relatively little research on benefits or about applicability to other chronic diseases. Patients in poorer settings are even more vulnerable because they also lack access to healthcare facilities, which can be a further demotivator to the long term engagement needed for optimal health outcomes.

In this essay we describe our experience of using on-to-face peer support groups for chronic disease management facilitated by community health workers in rural central India.