MCDTR Leveraging Community, Peer, and Family Support (National) Core

This Core facilitates research on and the development and evaluation of interventions addressing community, peer, and family support. We define community as the overarching ecosystem through which family and peer support is leveraged. Families and peers are defined broadly to include biological kin and individuals who comprise current and potential new social networks. These may consist of colleagues, neighbors, participants in a group medical visit, members of a virtual community, and even well-designed apps. Thus, this Core emphasizes a) the exchanges within and between communities, families, and peers (i.e., overlap); b) the characteristics and processes they share (i.e., interact); and c) the reciprocal association between their influence and their contexts – culture, disease characteristics, stage of life, etc. (i.e., function). The Core will support studies into these topics, including interventions anchored in communities and health care systems that utilize community, peer, or family influences, broadly defined. To improve the design, implementation, and evaluation of interventions, this Core will also support studies exploring community, peer, and family support paths and how different contexts shape them.

The Core’s work is highly pertinent to the Center’s emphasis on anti-racism and health equity. It is important to consider how communities, families, and peers are influenced by the harmful effects of racism and social and economic injustice. At the same time, communities, peers, and families have critically important roles in helping individuals confront racism and deal with its effects on their health and reducing inequity more broadly. This Core’s objectives are centered on how supports from communities, peers, and families impact and can best be mobilized to promote substantive positive changes in the lives and health of those affected by diabetes.

The Core is an outgrowth of the Michigan-UNC Peer Support Core, funded through the Michigan Center for Diabetes Translational Research, 2016-21. It continues the Peer Support Core’s emphasis on the variety of peers and peer support approaches and the processes that undergird them, while expanding on these to include families and communities. With its national focus, the Core will serve colleagues at the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and diabetes researchers across the US. This will include individual consultation to researchers and on research projects, national outreach, and facilitation such as through webinars and annual research workshops of a national Special Interest Group of researchers interested in the contributions of and interactions among community, peer, and family supports for reducing inequity in diabetes prevention and management.

The Specific Aims of the National Core are:

Aim 1. Provide consultation and assistance to researchers to increase and enhance T2-T4 translational research at the University of Michigan, UNC-Chapel Hill, and nationwide that addresses community, peer, and family supports and influences that affect, improve, or reduce inequities in prevention and management of diabetes.

Aim 2. Curate and disseminate resources nationwide for training those implementing programs as well as evaluation instruments and models and utilize social networking to promote and facilitate T2-T4 translational research and application of research addressing community, peer, and family influences in prevention, management, and reducing inequities in diabetes. Social networking will include Tuesday Tips, a weekly email of a research abstract or other document that goes to over 1,000 individuals in the US, and a total of 1,500 worldwide. Tuesday Tips, currently focusing on peer support from Community Health Workers, fellow patients, and other peers, will be expanded to encompass community and family as well as peer support and influences.

Aim 3. Develop a Special Interest Group to enhance quality of T2-T4 research and communication among leading and early career researchers addressing community, peer, and family influences in prevention, management, and reduction of inequity in diabetes. The Special Interest Group will include researchers from the Centers for Diabetes Translational Research (CDTRs) and other major diabetes research settings. Activities will include webinars for presentation of research proposals, works in progress, and results and discussion of ways to link community, peer, and family approaches. A yearly research working conference will continue those of the previous project period in addressing key issues for community, peer, and family supports, such as combatting racism, addressing mental health and diabetes, and linking community, peer, and family supports with health care systems and within cross-sectoral partnerships.

Key Personnel

Daphne C. Watkins, PhD

Core Co-Director

Edwin B. Fisher, Ph.D

Core Co-Director, UNC-Chapel Hill Peer Support

Linda Chatters, PhD


Joyce M. Lee, MD, MPH


Jamie M. Abelson

Core Co-Manager

Patrick Yao Tang

Core Co-Manager, UNC-Chapel Hill Peer Support