A Look at Online Communities for Diabetics

June 24, 2012 in diabetes, Member Stories

William Bartholomew/Flickr

The obesity epidemic has been kicking people into action. Mayor Bloomberg recently created legislation limiting New York City’s consumption of sugary beverages a few weeks ago. Disney has re-vamped its nutrition standard for all food products promoted on its networks and in their parks. With everyone caught up in ways to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes, we decided to look at what’s out there to help diabetics manage their symptoms now, outside doctor’s office visits.

One option is to join a social network. Like Facebook, members of these sites can share photos and comment on each others’ posts in discussion forums. But even better than that, patients can learn new ways to manage or cope with their symptoms that they may not think to ask about at the doctor’s office.

In looking at social networks for diabetics and the people helping with their care, I found that these sites offered information on methods to manage blood sugar or weight gain. Members can ask questions or share stories in discussion forums while staying tuned to new developments in medical research and treatments. Some sites even have a corresponding mobile app! Here are some social networks for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics I found in my research that were user-friendly and offered interesting features:

TuDiabetes.org (Diabetes Hands Foundation) An intuitive design, regularly-scheduled video chats with experts in the field and a strong presence from active members made this site stand out from the others. Visitors even have the option to view the site in Spanish, a key feature for a disease that predominantly affects the country’s Hispanic population.

DiabeticConnect (Alliance Health) Members can post reviews on medications, supplies and healthy foods. The site is closely tied to the Diabetes Mine blog that discusses developments in diabetes research and health news. The Health Center has concise, comprehensive information on how to manage symptoms that may be useful for those who are newly-diagnosed with diabetes.

Dlife (LifeMed Media, Inc.) Users are encouraged to utilize the site through a badge and points system. This site is also affiliated with the TV show, DLifeTV on CNBC, which covers a variety of the health and personal issues related to diabetes. Dlife stands out from the others because it provides video tutorials on how to best navigate the online community, which could be very helpful for those who are not as web savvy.

You should always remember to have a critical eye when reviewing information on these sites and not substitute what you learn for your doctor’s orders. Before deciding to join one of these social networks, there are a few things to keep in mind when finding the right site for you. Here are a few pointers pulled from this CommonHealth post about a Children’s Hospital study on social networks for diabetics from February 2011:

1) Make sure the site is managed by a credible organization. Look for editorial policies, privacy policies, medical disclaimers and other disclosures in the site’s “About” section. Are there guidelines for participating in the forums that imply the discussions are monitored?

2) Are the medical news and research posts referenced to another credible source? Do the posts and discussion forums seem one-sided? How frequently are posts added to the site’s blog?

3) How useable is the site? Smart organization and intuitive navigation are good signs of a well-crafted site that has been designed to bring you back.

Found any interesting health-related social networks out there? Let me know!

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