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Current Diabetes Reviews

Editor-in-Chief

ISSN (Print): 1573-3998
ISSN (Online): 1875-6417

The Emerging Diabetes Online Community

Author(s): Marisa E. Hilliard, Kerri M. Sparling, Jeff Hitchcock, Tamara K. Oser and Korey K. Hood

Volume 11 , Issue 4 , 2015

Page: [261 - 272] Pages: 12

DOI: 10.2174/1573399811666150421123448

open access plus

Abstract

Background: Diabetes self-management is complex and demanding, and isolation and burnout are common experiences. The Internet provides opportunities for people with diabetes to connect with one another to address these challenges. The aims of this paper are to introduce readers to the platforms on which Diabetes Online Community (DOC) participants interact, to discuss reasons for and risks associated with diabetes-related online activity, and to review research related to the potential impact of DOC participation on diabetes outcomes.

Methods: Research and online content related to diabetes online activity is reviewed, and DOC writing excerpts are used to illustrate key themes. Guidelines for meaningful participation in DOC activities for people with diabetes, families, health care providers, and industry are provided.

Results: Common themes around DOC participation include peer support, advocacy, self-expression, seeking and sharing diabetes information, improving approaches to diabetes data management, and humor. Potential risks include access to misinformation and threats to individuals’ privacy, though there are limited data on negative outcomes resulting from such activities. Likewise, few data are available regarding the impact of DOC involvement on glycemic outcomes, but initial research suggests a positive impact on emotional experiences, attitudes toward diabetes, and engagement in diabetes management behaviors.

Conclusion: The range of DOC participants, activities, and platforms is growing rapidly. The Internet provides opportunities to strengthen communication and support among individuals with diabetes, their families, health care providers, the health care industry, policy makers, and the general public. Research is needed to investigate the impact of DOC participation on self-management, quality of life, and glycemic control, and to design and evaluate strategies to maximize its positive impact.

Keywords: Advocacy, online communication, patient communication, social support, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes.

Graphical Abstract

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