Online message boards offer myriad benefits to constituents in search of support, information and community. Key to the success of a message board is a core group of people that can be relied on to keep conversations moving.
The Alzheimer’s Association, a voluntary health organization dedicated to finding prevention methods, treatments and a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, offers constituents a host of online message boards and chat rooms where they can share their thoughts and experiences, ask colleagues questions, and make friends. The message boards are grouped by topic and include a board for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, a forum for caregivers, a health professional’s forum, a forum for Spanish-speaking constituents, an Alzheimer’s Association news forum, and a board focused on medications/treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, among other things.
Beth Kallmyer, an associate director at the Alzheimer’s Association, says the organization uses software that allows board participants to access chat rooms as well, but adds that chat rooms don’t allow for facilitating discussions and groups, and the message boards have been more successful in developing an online community.
“There’s actually a group of people that are on it every day. They check it and if a new person logs on and poses a question, they will get no fewer than three or four or five — maybe more — responses within 24 hours, generally,” she says. “People welcome them to the boards, they tell them to come back, they give them suggestions. So there really is a community feel to it.”
The level of participation in the message boards varies and is up to each user. Kallmyer says some people participate just by reading the messages, while others are very active, posting to the board every day. For these highly active individuals, she says the message board is their support system, “sort of their family.”