Accessibility advantages of online peer support

Dr. Ku completed her undergraduate education in Neuroscience and Molecular/Cell Biology at Princeton, and her MD at Columbia University. In addition, she’s an expert on the intersection of public health and novel technology solutions, having earned an MBA from Columbia, and a Master’s in Public Health from UC Berkeley. As she summarizes in the paper:

“The healthcare system is designed to intervene when conditions become severe and is not equipped to address the challenges of daily life struggles. Peer support has been identified as an effective intervention to fill this gap, instill greater emotional well-being, and improve health outcomes for a wide range of mental and physical health issues. By increasing social connectedness and providing both emotional and tactical support for day-to-day stressors, peer support is a low-cost, effective service that can serve as a standalone offering or complementary to disease management programs.”

What is not widely known are the studied outcomes of peer support vis-a-vis traditional forms of mental health care. The whitepaper cites a meta-analysis of randomized control trials (RCTs) that compared peer support to traditional care for depression, in which peer support was significantly more effective for reducing depression scores. Further, peer support was as effective as group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The magnitude of improvement seen from peer support was similar to those of psychotherapy and antidepressant medications.

The whitepaper addresses accessibility advantages of online peer support networks, in a time when low-cost, accessible, flexible, and scalable care is critical to employers, health plans, individual end users, and U.S. public health system.