Recommendations for the design, implementation and evaluation of social support in online communities, networks, and groups

Academic Article


  • A new model of health care is emerging in which individuals can take charge of their health by connecting to online communities and social networks for personalized support and collective knowledge. Web 2.0 technologies expand the traditional notion of online support groups into a broad and evolving range of informational, emotional, as well as community-based concepts of support. In order to apply these technologies to patient-centered care, it is necessary to incorporate more inclusive conceptual frameworks of social support and community-based research methodologies. This paper introduces a conceptualization of online social support, reviews current challenges in online support research, and outlines six recommendations for the design, evaluation, and implementation of social support in online communities, networks, and groups. The six recommendations are illustrated by CanConnect, an online community for cancer survivors in middle Tennessee. These recommendations address the interdependencies between online and real-world support and emphasize an inclusive framework of interpersonal and community-based support. The applications of these six recommendations are illustrated through a discussion of online support for cancer survivors. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Weiss JB; Berner ES; Johnson KB; Giuse DA; Murphy BA; Lorenzi NM
  • Start Page

  • 970
  • End Page

  • 976
  • Volume

  • 46
  • Issue

  • 6