Colloquia 2019-2020 | Online Communities as Vehicles to Share Health Information and Support

Online Communities as Vehicles to Share Health Information and Support – Challenges and Critical Questions


Social technologies are currently being used to connect people and share information about health across geographic boundaries and for a range of health-related issues.  Online communities exist all around us, on generic social platforms that include many communities such as Reddit and Facebook, as well as platforms with a health focus, such as PatientsLikeMe and MedHelp.  In this presentation, I will present an overview of health-related online communities and social networks, and the ways in which they can assist patients in health management.  I will also introduce important functions that they serve including social and informational support, as well as key issues such as participation, engagement, and design of these communities.  In particular I will present a few examples of my own research in this area, including the Body Listening Project and Virtual Online Communities for Aging Life Experiences (VOCALE), online communities for participants to share their knowledge and experiences about body listening and health management.  Lastly, I will present challenges and critical questions.



Annie T. ChenAnnie T. Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education at the University of Washington School of Medicine.  She received a B.A. in Psychology from Harvard University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Information Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Her areas of research expertise include digital health, visual analytics, research methods, and long-term health management, particularly as pertain to issues of information behavior, attitudes, and belief.  At the University of Washington, she currently teaches courses in consumer health informatics, information interactions, and user-centered design.  She also works with and mentors students from a diverse array of disciplines and levels, including both undergraduates and graduate students.