Let’s Talk: An Exploration of a Transdiagnostic Peer Mentorship Program for Adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Ford, Meghan K.
Peer support , Adolescent , Health psychology , IBD , Transition , Healthcare
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic autoimmune disease often diagnosed during adolescence. IBD negatively impacts all aspects of health-related quality of life, resulting in physical, emotional, social, school, and work functioning challenges. Providing care to adolescents during the transition period from pediatric to adult care has been identified as a priority in healthcare. Specifically, adolescents have identified the need for peer support in managing their disease and promoting positive health outcomes. However, studies have yet to explore the peer support needs of this population. The primary aim of this thesis was to understand the lived experiences of adolescents participating in a peer mentoring program (iPeer2Peer) utilizing qualitative and quantitative methods. Fifty-nine adolescents from three tertiary hospitals in Canada, participated in the iPeer2Peer program as mentees. Twenty-four interviews were analyzed following a reflexive thematic analysis. The qualitative analysis focused on mentee program experiences through three overarching themes. The themes covered adolescent positive program experience (theme 1), barriers to engagement (theme 2), and solutions to increase program engagement and delivery (theme 3). Through these overarching themes, peer support for adolescents with IBD adds value to IBD care by developing a sense of belongingness with peers who share lived experiences. Participants completed questionnaire measures at baseline and post-program examining self-reported health-related quality of life (HRQL), self-efficacy, and emotional distress. Quantitative analyses suggest improvements in adolescent perceptions of HRQL from baseline to post-program. This thesis demonstrates the complexity of mentee experiences and presents the need to provide psychosocial support to adolescents with IBD. It contributes depth and novel ideas to the understanding of adolescent IBD experiences and the benefits of participating in a peer support program. However, future adaptations are needed to ensure optimal and appropriate care for this population. Clinical implications and future research opportunities are discussed.
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