267308 Recruiting special and hard-to-reach populations in Second Life study: Recruiting through the eyes of an avatar

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jodi Swicegood, MS , Social, Statistical and Environmental Sciences - Program for Occupational Safety and Health, RTI International, Durham, NC
Saira Haque, PhD , Social, Statistical, and Environmental Sciences - Center for the Advancement of Health IT, RTI International, Durham, NC
Background: Virtual worlds such as Second Life show great promise for supporting behavior change and improving health interventions. Previous research in this area suggests that those with chronic health conditions use these communities for support and to integrate self-care practices into their everyday lives. Objective/Purpose: We sought to understand the utility of Second Life in recruiting users with chronic conditions to learn how first to engage them and then to design successful tailored interventions. We recruited members from four chronic condition populations: diabetes, chronic pain, HIV+, and cancer. Methods: We designed a survey using existing measures and used a variety of recruitment methods within Second Life as well as social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to recruit users who were 18 years or older and U.S. residents. Measures included health status, computer and social media use, and access to healthcare. Results were analyzed within and across communities. Results: Support communities have emerged in Second Life to provide resources and information to individuals with chronic conditions. Successful recruitment of individuals from within these communities is largely contingent upon a) how organized that community is in Second Life; and b) establishing legitimacy, including developing the recruiting avatar's image and Second Life persona within the virtual environment. Discussion/Conclusion: Understanding Second Life's virtual environment is a key factor to reaching populations with chronic conditions within that environment. Understanding Second Life's environment, unique culture, and design features allows researchers to better design, develop, and implement a successful recruitment strategy for an online virtual study. Future work is needed to improve the design of targeted interventions in virtual worlds.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
Describe best practices and lessons learned when recruiting diabetic, HIV+,chronic pain and cancer communities in virtual communities such as Second Life Analyze the success of various recruitment methods in targeting participants with chronic conditions in Second Life Design a recruitment protocol to engage virtual study participants with chronic conditions

Keywords: Chronic Diseases, Special Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have served as the Recruitment Coordinator for two virtual world Second Life studies and have both published findings and presented research at academic conferences. I have experience recruiting special and hard-to-reach populations with chronic medical conditions and developing working relationships with virtual health-related support communities in Second Life. My research interests include understanding the role health-related support communities play in supporting behavior change in those with chronic conditions.
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.