Online social support for people with diabetes

    Researchers are looking for a new way to help those with diabetes stay healthy. Instead of hours-long classes, all the education and support happens online where patients learn at their own pace.

    Dr. Robert Gabbay leads the study at the Hershey Medical Center. Once patients have a basic understanding about diabetes, Gabbay says, they join a closed-circle, social network of other educated patients.

    Gabbay: Typically only 5 percent of people with diabetes have probably ever gone to a class. Being able to do something on the Web, and particularly in this tailored messaging sort of approach, where you are given content based on adult learning styles. I think has some potential advantages.

    The education program was designed by other people with diabetes who told researchers what they wished they’d known when they were first diagnosed.

    Gabbay: Although we use social networking a great deal in our lives, it’s not really been harnessed in terms of treating chronic illness as much as it could be. So this is an early attempt to study the impact on people.

    The researchers will measure if the program and social network change patients’ emotional stress, knowledge about diabetes or health behaviors.

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