BackgroundCompared to whites, African Americans have a greater incidence of diabetes, decreased control, and higher rates of micro-vascular complications. A peer mentorship model could be a scalable approach to improving control in this population and reducing disparities in diabetic outcomes.ObjectiveTo determine whether peer mentors or financial incentives are superior to usual care in helping African American Veterans improve their glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels.DesignA six month randomized controlled trial. (ClinicalTrials.gov registration number: NCT01125956)SettingThe Philadelphia VA Medical Center.PatientsAfrican American veterans, age 50-70 years old, with persistently poor diabetes control.MeasurementsChange in HbA1c at 6 monthsIntervention118 participants were randomized to one of the three arms. Usual care participants were notified of their starting HbA1c and recommended goals for HbA1c. Those in the peer mentor arm were assigned a peer mentor who formerly had poor glycemic control but now had good control (HbA1c < 7.5%) who was asked to talk with the participant at least once a week. Peer mentors were matched on race, sex, and age. Those in the financial incentive arm could earn $100 by dropping their HbA1c by one point and $200 by dropping it by two points or to a HbA1c of 6.5%.ResultsMentors and mentees talked the most in the first month (mean calls 4: range 0-30) and dropped to a mean of 2 calls (range 0-10) by the sixth month. HbA1c dropped from 9.9% to 9.8% in the control arm, 9.8% to 8.7% in the peer mentor arm and from 9.5% to 9.1% in the financial incentive arm. Mean change in HbA1c from baseline to 6 months relative to control was −1.07 (95% CI −1.84 to −0.31) in the peer mentor arm and −0.45 (95% CI −1.23 to 0.32) in the financial incentive arm.LimitationsThe study included only veterans and lasted only 6 months.ConclusionsPeer mentorship improved glucose control in a cohort of African American Veterans with diabetes.