The iPeer2Peer Program was developed by the iOUCH research team at The Hospital for Sick Children to help teenagers with chronic disease better manage their symptoms. Many young people live with chronic diseases that make everyday activities hard. Chronic diseases are long-lasting conditions that can cause pain, discomfort and emotional upset. This can make it hard for children and teenagers to do the activities that make life fun and happy. When children become teenagers they start making more decisions about their lives and their health. This is called self-management. Being a part of disease self-management can help teenagers move more smoothly into the adult health-care system. Most young people do not learn how to manage their disease or get the support they need to be able to do so. Many have also never met another person with the same disease. Peer support could help meet this need. Providing face-to-face peer support using the Internet is a new way to make self-management education and support available to teenagers with chronic disease.
The iPeer2Peer Program matches teenagers with chronic disease with a young adult mentor who has learned to manage their disease. The teenagers and their mentors speak on Skype video calls ten times for 20 to 30 minutes over three months. The iPeer2Peer Program is new and different because it uses technology that many teenagers are already familiar with and makes education and support more accessible to young people with chronic disease. In a research study of the iPeer2Peer Program in teenagers with arthritis or chronic pain, teenagers who were involved in the iPeer2Peer Program had improvements in their self-management skills and their use of coping strategies was more successful. We hope that taking part in the iPeer2Peer Program will decrease the burden of these long-term diseases on the children themselves and on the healthcare system.