Chat Room Computer-Mediated Support on Health Issues for Aboriginal Women
Health Care for Women International
Within contemporary health care, increases in chronic disease have necessitated a disease management focus. Given that chronic disease is managed, more so than cured, there are increased demands for greater participation by health care consumers and they are expectated to take on increased responsibility for self-care. The emphasis on consumer responsibility has increased the significance of health-promoting behavior change in contending with contemporary health care concerns. In Canada, the reported inequity in health status between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians further emphasizes the need for innovative health strategies. For Aboriginal women isolated by geography, changing societal norms (e.g., women working outside of the home, single parent families), and cultural distinction, online chat participation serves as a novel medium for the provision of health knowledge, support, and motivation within a virtual “neighborhood.” Recognizing the significance of social support in the promotion of positive health behavior change, we investigated the theme of social support within health conversations among Aboriginal women participating in an online chat room. Content analysis was the primary methodological focus within a mixed methods approach. Of 101 health-based online conversations, the majority reflected one of three forms of social support: (1) emotional support, (2) informational support, or (3) instrumental support. The value of social support and social cohesion within health has been well documented. The current investigation suggests that “community” need not be physically constructed; virtual communities offer great potential for social cohesion around the issues of health and health care.