7 reasons to join your online health communities

February 16, 2011

Two friends heltering under a red umbrella

Finding friends. By h.koppdelany on flickr

How do people decide whether to join an online health community?

I posted late last year about my search through food allergy websites after my daughter had several severe food allergy reactions. As always, the search made me try to identifywhat exactly I’m looking for when I seek out health communities.

Here’s what I think influences me.

1. Recency

The site should have posts from the (very) recent past – if I’m posting to a health forum, I’m hoping for a reply quickly.  A site with no posts in the last week is not likely to be a great source of advice.

2. Frequency

Posts should have plenty of replies – longer conversation threads indicate the possibility of deep discussion. A lot of communities list number of views, a practice which drives me crazy.  The Mumsnet allergy board is an example of one that’s nice and active.

3. Relevance

In my case, I’m looking for discussion that is directly relevant to our particular stage and circumstances i.e. directed at parents of school-age children who have been living with allergy full-time.  Sites which discuss gluten-free diets or diagnosis of allergy in babies simply aren’t that relevant. (Sadly, this tends to take Mumsnet off the list for me).

4. Resonance

Reading the individual posts, I’m looking for people that I am likely to truly connect with – for me, the indicators of that are well-reasoned, authentic, well-written contributions, by people who support evidence-based medicine.   Too many mentions crystals and homeopathy will send me running away.

5. Welcoming

Ideally, there should be some evidence that the site actively welcomes new members – perhaps a moderated Introductions area where current members reply to new members

6. Avoids any personal triggers.

Everyone has their own sensitivities. Personally, allergy sites which dwell heavily on bad outcomes just make me more worried rather than less.  One site has a prominent ‘In Memoriam’ sticky post which makes me queasy every time I look at it.

7. Easy to use

Simple sign-up and a pleasant layout are the icing on the cake – but I’ll put up with utilitarian design if the content is right.  Some allergy sites make it extremely hard to join, or  put the forum behind a membership wall – all very well, but it really cuts down activity.

Overall? It’s a sense of recognition, that this particular online space has some answers  for you and will welcome you in gladly.   Sad to say, I haven’t quite found it yet.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous March 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm

It is a good seven reasons to join your online health communities. I like to join this type of health communities. I like to know more and more about health and science.

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