Evaluating the Impact of Global Digital Health Communities: The Case of Multiple Sclerosis

Dr Ana Manzano, Faculty of Social Sciences


Shift.ms is a Leeds based online global health community for people recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis with outstanding worldwide reach. This project will examine the impact of new forms of digital health peer- support groups like Shift.ms in society. It will support Shift.ms and similar national organisations to improve their self-evaluation skills and in doing so, increase their reach and support, becoming more responsive to user needs. An interdisciplinary team of academics including health economists, social scientists and methodologists will work in this innovative and contemporary project to develop the evidence-based around a key topic- online health communities- that can have direct impact in young people living with a chronic illness.

There are important gaps in evidence about what online health communities do, how they do it and why. All those questions will be explored in this study. This will generate societal impact by supporting the project partner and similar third sector organisations to engage with various evaluation methodologies to assess user impact. It will also have the potential to generate economic impact by designing a sophisticated and context specific “Self-evaluation toolkit” for online health communities that could be accessed worldwide.

This toolkit lays out a set of principles that can be applied to evaluate digital technologies often used by health communities.  It is also a summary of Shift.ms’ learning from evaluation projects either self-initiated or conducted in partnership with academics and external evaluators.  You can access the PDF here: Shift.ms Toolkit

Dr Ana Manzano can be contacted by email: A.Manzano@leeds.ac.uk