How to run a successful community on HealthUnlocked?

Lora Schellenberg is the Communities Manager at HealthUnlocked. She maintains relationships with existing communities while identifying new organizations to partner with in order for them to enjoy all the advantages of having a community on HealthUnlocked.

Ever wondered what it really takes to run a successful community on HealthUnlocked? It can be a challenge: from getting set up, to recruiting members, to dealing with day-to-day moderation. In this blog post, I’ll talk about unique situations with a few of our communities and how organizations have overcome their challenges. 

One of our first communities

Launched back in early 2011, Thyroid UK Support is one of our biggest and most successful communities to date. The staff have done such a wonderful job handling their rapidly-growing community, that today is approaching 10,000 members!

Being such a small charity with little manpower is additionally what makes Thyroid UK a success story. One of the main reasons they have been so successful is their process of recruiting volunteers who subsequently turned into trusted admins.

With us since the beginning, they’ve been through it all and continue to tell about it. Even HealthUnlocked has evolved many of its recommended best practices from their suggestions.


Discussion of sensitive health topics 

The thought of having an online space for people to discuss sensitive health topics is something most people would avoid entirely. To many, it doesn’t seem worth opening a can of worms to online predators.

British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) has done an outstanding job managing their community, with a handful of designated volunteers on hand at all hours of the day to answer questions like “I’ve just found out I have HIV and I feel so scared and alone – what do I do now?”.

The support they provide in such a kind and sensitive manner helps members feel they can safely and anonymously ask questions when they are in a state of fear and confusion. Often times it’s more about getting a response from someone, even if the answer is simply “visit your local GUM clinic and they will give you all the help you need”.

Another community, managed by Action on Postpartum Psychosis, has served a purpose for women feeling scared and alone due to a mental condition with a lot of stigma around it. Different from postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis is a widely misunderstood condition that has a massive effect on women and their families.

One of the best aspects of the Action on Postpartum Psychosis community is the women who run the organization, who have actually been through this illness themselves. Each of them have blogged about their specific stories within the community. This gives new women who join a way to instantly connect when they are frightened about what might happen to them and their baby. The bonds formed in this community are second-to-none.

Parents dealing with children’s disease

Talking online about someone’s health issues that aren’t your own can pose an additional challenge, even in an anonymous environment. Extra precaution must be taken when discussing the health matters of your own children.

Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF) has handled this very well, providing a safe community where parents can openly discuss what they go through as families. Being a charity that deals with the sensitive nature of children’s liver disease in general, they keep a watchful eye over discussion to make sure everything runs on a day-to-day basis.

Another aspect worth mentioning is their use of the community for communications about events they sponsor as an organization. They do group activities like bowling and art projects, as well as group Skype calls for mums to chat to each other live.

Personally I have a great admiration for the continuous feedback CLDF always asks from its members, which means they are constantly evolving as an organization. Well done!

Anyone can discover their health

As you can see, every organization faces different challenges when it comes to setting up their online community. It goes to show that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and there doesn’t need to be. As we continue to grow, we intend to explore even more possibilities of how HealthUnlocked can help literally anyone discover their health.

— Lora Schellenberg, Communities Manager

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