Towards evaluating and enhancing the reach of online health forums for smoking cessation

  • Michael Stearns
  • Siddhartha Nambiar
  • Alexander NikolaevEmail author
  • Alexander Semenov
  • Scott McIntosh
Original Article


Online pro-health social networks facilitating smoking cessation through web-assisted interventions have flourished in the past decade. In order to properly evaluate and increase the impact of this form of treatment on society, one needs to understand and be able to quantify its reach, as defined within the widely adopted RE-AIM framework. In the online communication context, user engagement is an integral component of reach. This paper quantitatively studies the effect of engagement on the users of the Alt.Support.Stop-Smoking forum that served the needs of an online smoking cessation community for more than 10 years. The paper then demonstrates how online service evaluation and planning by social network analysts can be applied towards strategic interventions targeting increased user engagement in online health forums. To this end, the challenges and opportunities are identified in the development of thread recommendation systems for effective and efficient spread of healthy behaviors, in particular smoking cessation.


Social network analysis Smoking cessation Online forum communication RE-AIM framework Reach Engagement Intervention modeling 



This work was supported in part by the Academy of Finland Grant #268078 “Mining social media sites” (MineSocMed) and the National Cancer Institute (R01CA152093-01 to S.M.). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Academy of Finland, the National Cancer Institute or the National Institutes of Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Stearns
    • 1
  • Siddhartha Nambiar
    • 1
  • Alexander Nikolaev
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Semenov
    • 2
  • Scott McIntosh
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Industrial and Systems EngineeringUniversity at Buffalo (SUNY)BuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mathematical Information TechnologyUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland
  3. 3.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of RochesterRoshesterUSA

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