Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common form of arthritis in children. Since the teen years are a time of huge personal growth and change, children need strong social and emotional support to better deal with their condition as they go through those changes. With the generous support of the Arthritis Society’s donors, Dr. Jennifer Stinson’s recent work has shed light on how young people with JIA can better manage their condition. Thousands of young Canadians will live better as a result.
Dr. Stinson’s study involved an online peer-mentoring program, called iPeer2Peer. Her study showed that teens with JIA improved in their ability to self-manage their condition through iPeer2Peer. Teens in the study were happy with the program and said they would recommend it to their peers. Dr. Stinson found that teens who served as peer mentors also benefitted, supporting and encouraging them to take a greater role in their own self-management.
The Arthritis Society-funded researcher has also created an online program called [Teens Taking Charge: Managing JIA Online.
This program gives teens and their parents an available resource they can turn to for peer support, inspiration and information to better manage their arthritis and learn skills to move successfully to adult care.
Research like this is helping people live better with arthritis today, while we work together towards a cure.
Research progress update (June 2019):
Since 2016, Dr. Stinson has been running a clinical trial to test whether the iPeer2Peer program can definitively help teens with arthritis take better care of themselves. By matching teens with young adult mentors who have “been there” and learned to manage their arthritis well, this program could build social connections and support, helping teens with arthritis thrive.
The trial is now underway at five hospitals across Canada. Over 80 participants have been recruited and over 20 mentors have been trained. Once the study is complete, the program has the potential to demonstrate cost savings for the healthcare system in addition to benefits in the lives of young people with arthritis, supporting potential implementation of peer mentoring programs more broadly. The study has already led to international collaborations with other researchers, including a team who is adapting iPeer2Peer for teens with arthritis in Ireland.