No matter how many healthcare professionals are involved in patient care, the primary responsibility for managing a chronic medical condition still rests with the patient (or caregiver). It’s difficult to be successful in this daunting responsibility without a strong support system. Some patients find it worthwhile to meet with others who share the same medical condition. For more than thirty-five years, we have offered in-person disease-specific support groups. Many members of the groups find that giving and receiving advice and support among their peers instils personal confidence and the feeling of having some control over their own health.

The GI Society recently conducted a national survey to find out what patients with GI and liver conditions are looking for in a support group. We asked which meeting format individuals prefer, which types of gathering spaces are ideal, how large and diverse the group should be, and how often a support group should meet.

In total, 90 individuals completed the survey. Surprisingly – given the technology-dominant world in which we live – the majority of individuals (80) prefer an in-person support group over a monitored, online support group. A community centre received the most votes for a gathering location followed by a hospital. Date, time, and geographic location are major determinants as to whether someone attends a support group. The beginning of the week (Monday-Wednesday) is the best time to hold a meeting for most and more than half of the survey participants prefer them to take place in the evening after 7:00pm. Most survey respondents would like to see a combination of formats, including open and flexible, structured, with pre-set topics to discuss, and presentation style, with medical professionals giving talks on relevant material. The majority of respondents do not want an entirely unstructured meeting. When asked how often they would attend a support group meeting, the results were mixed, but the most popular answers were once a month (38%), once every three months (23%), and once every six months (21%).

Most agreed that having a mixture of ages would be of benefit to the group, or they didn’t think the attendees’ ages mattered; however, 15 participants said they would prefer restricting attendance to people of a similar age. Interestingly, despite the overwhelming preference for an in-person support group, a resounding 76 participants (84%) prefer to receive an email notification of an upcoming meeting instead of a phone call or a notice in the mail.

The GI Society thanks everyone who participated in the survey. We value your feedback and will keep your responses in mind as we work to improve our current support groups and form new ones across the country.


Facilitators Needed!

Do you enjoy interacting with others? Are you a good listener? Can you keep a conversation on topic? Maybe you have a digestive disease yourself and would like to meet others in your area who are experiencing the same health struggles? We’re looking for volunteer facilitators to help with support groups across the country for GI and liver conditions. Below is a brief description of these volunteer positions.

Facilitate Meetings (9-10 per year; 1.5 hours each)

  • Help to secure an appropriate meeting space
  • Assist with advertising the group’s meetings
  • Provide regular feedback to the GI Society regarding the group’s needs and expectations
  • Welcome attendees
  • Distribute GI Society pamphlets and educational materials
  • Monitor the group’s discussion to remain on topic
  • Ensure a safe, supportive, caring atmosphere

If you would like to become involved by helping to organize a group in your area, please get in touch with us today.

Not interested in facilitating but want to attend a group? Please let us know, so we can gauge interest in groups across the country and respond accordingly.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 184 – 2012