IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Observation of postings now FINISHED

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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Observation of postings now FINISHED

Post by jennylee » Mon Oct 15, 2007 11:38 pm

Edited: 30th October 2007
Announcement: observation of postings now FINISHED.
La Trobe University, School of Public Health
Bundoora VIC 3086

Breastfeeding and motherhood: peer support in cyberspace

Master of Public Health Student: Dr Genevieve Cowie
Supervisors from the School of Public Health:
Dr Sophie Hill
Dr Priscilla Robinson

Many thanks to you all for continuing to post on the ABA Forum over the last two weeks whilst I collected data for my Master's thesis. I have now finished collecting the data, and will now begin coding it. You may be reassured that no individual will be able to be identified from the information that I may publish as a result of the project (see below).

Your enthusiasm for the ABA Forum and supporting each other will hopefully now reach a much wider audience - well done!

Below is the Participant Information and Consent Statement for the project if you wish to read it again. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me ( Once again, thank you.

Genevieve Cowie.

What this study is about and why it is being done
My name is Genevieve Cowie and as well as being a mother of three young boys, a Community Educator with the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) and a trained General Practitioner, I am doing my Master of Public Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Victoria. In order to finish my Masters degree I am studying how mothers use this Forum on the ABA web site to support each other. I hope that the information gained from this study will help the ABA, breastfeeding support groups internationally, as well as other health related peer support groups improve their services to those in need, not to mention alerting health professionals to the wealth of excellent peer support available in cyberspace to their patients.
Breast milk is well known to be the ideal food for human babies, however without the right advice and support many babies and their mothers are missing out on the many physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding, making it an important public health issue. Although support from both health-care professionals and other mothers has been shown to be effective in improving breastfeeding rates, it is not certain what are the best ways of delivering such support in different settings. In addition to its traditional methods of lay support, the ABA now provides support in cyberspace through its web site. The web site offers much information on breastfeeding topics, access to email counselling and of course the Forum, a discussion board moderated by the ABA’s trained lay counsellors where people can exchange information and support.

How will the study be done?
The Forum is extremely popular with over 131,500 postings (and rising) and 3,500 members and I plan to look at about a thousand postings - it may only take a few weeks to get a sufficient number. You have a choice as to whether to participate (see Participation – your choice below). I will then code the contents of the postings (content analysis) to see what the range of different topics discussed is and how frequently each one is discussed. Of course it is helpful to have good participation from those using the web site so as many of the postings during the data collection period as possible are included for the results to be representative. I will look at the type of support being sought, any overlap with other breastfeeding information on the web site as well as looking at what topics are missing from the discussions. I am also studying the way the moderation of the board is done by the Breastfeeding Counsellors, and the sorts of information that people provide about themselves. No identifying information of individuals posting will be used and even online ‘handles’ and avatars will be re-coded before data analysis. Results will also be combined which will further protect the privacy of those using the web site.

What will happen with the results?
Precautions will be taken to ensure the confidentiality and security of the information taken from the web site, including the re-coding of online handles before analysis, combining data, password protection of electronic files, and secure locations for papers associated with the project. Only my supervisors and I will be allowed to see the raw data. We are required to keep the raw data for five years and if further research projects are planned with that data, any of the same three investigators would have to apply for approval from the La Trobe University Faculty Human Ethics Committee before that could be done.
Once the analysis has been done, I will be giving the ABA a copy of the results as well as a summary to be posted on the web site for Forum users to see. The results will be written up in the form of a thesis and I hope it will be more widely published such as in the form of professional journals and conference presentations.

What benefits will participants get from being in this study?

I hope that users will find it interesting and helpful in their use of the Forum and the rest of the ABA web site, as well having the satisfaction of helping even more people (especially other breastfeeding mothers) through the use that I hope will be made of the conclusions from the study.

Will anything bad happen to me as a result of this study?
Some users may feel reluctant to use the Forum for support during the period of the study as their attention has been drawn to the fact that the study is taking place and all further postings for a few weeks will be read and coded by me. However, it is important to remember what is written in the Forum Guidelines:
… this forum is very public and anyone, anywhere in the world, can read it. For this reason you should be mindful of the personal details you post publicly on the forum itself.
This applies at all times to the Forum and it is sensible to re-read the information provided under the topic Forum and Personal Safety, as well as the Forum Guidelines. However, even if those using the Forum have not been cautious in the information they post during the study period, no individuals will be able to be identified from the information I publish.

Regardless of whether you choose to participate or not, other ways the ABA can give you alternative methods of breastfeeding support include:
• Email counselling if your question is not urgent ... elling.asp
• 7 day a week Helpline, especially if your question is urgent ... elling.asp
• General breastfeeding information elsewhere on this web site
• Printed publications available through Mothers Direct, including the ABA’s famous booklet series, and magazine Essence (available with subscription)
• Breastfeeding classes may be available in your region
• Local groups, where you can get together with mothers in your area to chat about breastfeeding and parenting young children
• Podcasts, which are like listening to an online group meeting.

International online breastfeeding support is also available via the La Leche League International and Association of Breastfeeding Mothers web sites, which also have discussion boards or lists.
It is very unlikely that any harm will come to Forum users by using your postings in this way. Remember you have many options of how to get your support for breastfeeding, should you choose not to use this Forum for a few weeks.
There will of course be no disadvantage to you should you not wish to participate in the project, or withdraw from it before it has finished.

Participation – your choice
So, what do you have to do to participate? All you need to do is keep using the Forum as you normally would, of course always keeping the personal safety recommendations in mind. I will only be using postings from after this announcement has been posted, so you can choose whether or not to participate. A further announcement will be posted when data collection has finished.
If you do not wish to participate in this study, during the study period you may choose to:
• not post or register on the Forum, or
• email me ( and ask me not to include your future postings, or
• email me and ask for any of your previous postings to be withdrawn from the study (and records of them in my possession destroyed) up to four weeks after they were posted

Posting and registering on the Forum will be taken as implying your agreement to participation in this study (consent statement below), unless you email me and ask me not to include your postings.

Once the information from the Forum has been analysed and written up, the results of the study will be available to you should you ask me for them. The personal information and all the messages you have posted are already available to you (and others) by searching the memberlist section of the Forum for yourself.

Contact details
For further information on this research project, please do not hesitate to contact me (Genevieve Cowie) by email or my supervisors from the School of Public Health:
Dr Sophie Hill
Dr Priscilla Robinson
This study has been approved by the La Trobe University Faculty of Health Sciences Human Ethics Committee.
If you have any complaints or queries that the investigators have not been able to answer to your satisfaction, you may contact:
The Secretary
Faculty Human Ethics Committee
Faculty of Health Sciences
La Trobe University VIC 3086
Phone: (03) 9479 3583 Email

Consent Statement
It would be great to have you keep using the Forum and participate in this research project. If you choose to participate and register or post on this Forum, you are agreeing to the consent statement below:

I have read and understood this Participant Information Page and any questions I have asked have been answered to my satisfaction. I agree to participate in the project, realising that I may withdraw from the study at any time and may request that no data arising from my participation are used, up to four weeks following the completion of my participation in the research. I agree that research data provided by me or with my permission during the project may be included in a thesis, presented at conferences and published in journals on the condition that neither my name nor any other identifying information is used.

Thank you for your consideration of this project,
Genevieve Cowie.
Australian Breastfeeding Association

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