Virtual Communities, Real Respondents: Identifying, Contacting, and Surveying Unique Populations in Second Life
*Elizabeth Dean, RTI International
Keywords: chronically ill respondents, virtual worlds, health surveys
The online virtual world Second Life has piqued interest in clinical and research communities as a platform for staging health interventions for people with chronic conditions and disabilities including chronic pain, cancer, HIV+ and diabetes. People with these conditions tend to be hard to reach for traditional health interventions due to social stigma, embarrassment, lack of compliance, and inability or unwillingness to leave the home. Patients with chronic illness may visit SL to escape the real world and find support and acceptance within a very specific community. In this study, we specifically seek out HIV+, diabetic, chronic pain and cancer patients to more fully understand how to reach, recruit and interview them in SL. The presentation will describe differences in recruitment time and mode (message board, classifieds, word of mouth, instant message) and success or failure by each of the four chronic disease groups. Additionally, demographic characteristics, general health status, responsiveness to the survey request, and the correlation of SL use with other online communities and social media will be assessed for each target population and by recruitment effectiveness.