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Hayes A, Morzinski J, Ertl K, Wurm C, Patterson L, Wilke N, Whittle J. Preliminary description of the feasibility of using peer leaders to encourage hypertension self-management. Wmj : Official Publication of The State Medical Society of Wisconsin. 2010 Apr 1; 109(2):85-90.
BACKGROUND: Despite consensus that effective treatment of hypertension reduces morbidity and mortality, control rates remain relatively low. This report describes key features of a peer support program designed to motivate individuals to improve self-management of hypertension. METHODS: We recruited Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in southeastern Wisconsin and trained members of these posts to be peer health leaders over a period of 18 months. The curriculum covered information important to blood pressure control, as well as peer educator skills. During this time, the peer leaders presented educational materials and encouraged self-monitoring of blood pressure at post meetings. Surveys and focus groups were conducted to evaluate the adoption of the program at the posts. RESULTS: After a series of informational mailings and visits to veteran posts, 15 posts and 27 peer leaders volunteered to participate. Fourteen posts (93%) continued active participation throughout the study period, as did 24 peer leaders. Peer leaders reported that they gained health knowledge, skills, and confidence to perform as informational resources at their posts, resulting in greater levels of health support among post members. CONCLUSION: The partnership of health care professional, medical school, and veteran service organization successfully organized and maintained a community-based, peer-led program to promote healthy behaviors among Wisconsin's armed services veterans. Community physicians should be familiar with programs of this type as chronic disease self-management grows in appeal in our communities and increasing numbers of veterans return from armed service duty.