228046 How parents of children with clubfeet use online communities to manage illness-related uncertainty: What can we learn from them?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Florin Oprescu, MD, MPHA, MBA, PhD , Community and Behavioral Health, University of Iowa, College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
Shelly Campo, PhD , Community and Behavioral Health, University of Iowa, College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
John B. Lowe, DrPH, FAHPA, FAAHB , School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Australia
Jose Morcuende, MD, PhD , Department of Orthopedics, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA
Saloni Nayar , Department of Community & Behavioral Health, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Iowa City, IA
The availability of online support communities creates new opportunities for caregivers of children affected by various health conditions to manage their illness-related uncertainty. Furthermore, online support communities create new opportunities for health communication scholars and professionals to both understand their audience and to deliver interventions. This research examined uncertainty management behaviors in online interactions among parents (caregivers) of children with clubfeet. The Uncertainty Management Theory (uncertainty, information seeking, and social support) provided the theoretical foundation for the study. A content analysis of 775 randomly-selected messages exchanged in an online support community dedicated to parents of children with clubfeet was conducted to describe the online behaviors and interactions of parents. Women authored 85.7% (N=664) messages. Emotions are used by individuals to both express uncertainty and to manage uncertainty. In 20% of messages the emotions expressed were positive. Information seeking behaviors included direct questioning (25.3% of all messages), self disclosure (15%), followed by second guessing and passive information seeking. The most frequent type of social support was provision of information. Personal experience was the source of information in 60% of the messages. Thirteen percent of the messages included medical information and 25% clearly identified medical care providers. Results suggest that online communities dedicated to parents of children with health issues represent a promising setting for studying illness-related uncertainty and its potential causes. Important practical and theoretical implications will be discussed.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Define online support communities 2. List three key constructs of the Uncertainty Management Theory 3. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of studying an online community 4. Apply the content analysis methodology described to other similar research projects

Keywords: Caregivers, Health Communications

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Served as a coder on the project data and am very familiar with the study methods.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.