Identifying the processes of change and engagement from using a social network intervention for people with long-term conditions. A qualitative study

Health Expect. 2019 Apr;22(2):173-182. doi: 10.1111/hex.12839. Epub 2018 Oct 14.


Background: Personal and community networks are recognized as influencing and shaping self-management activities and practices. An acceptable intervention which facilitates self-management by mobilizing network support and improves network engagement has a positive impact on health and quality of life. This study aims to identify the processes through which such changes and engagement take place.

Methods: The study was conducted in the south of England in 2016-2017 and adopted a longitudinal case study of networks design. Purposive sample of respondents with long-term conditions (n = 15) was recruited from local groups. Barriers and facilitators to implementation were explored in interviews with key stakeholders (5).

Results: Intervention engagement leads to a deepening of relationships within networks, adding new links and achieving personal objectives relevant for improving the health and well-being of users and network members. Such changes are supported through two pathways: the mobilization of network capabilities and by acting as a nudge. The first is a gradual process where potentially relevant changes are further contemplated by forefronting immediate concerns and negotiating acceptable means for achieving change, prioritizing objective over subjective valuations of support provided by network members and rehearsing justifications for keeping the status quo or adopting change. The second pathway changes are enacted through the availability of a potential fit between individual, network and environmental conditions of readiness.

Conclusions: The two pathways of network mobilization identified in this study illuminate the individual, network and environmental level processes involved in moving from cognitive engagement with the intervention to adopting changes in existing practice.

Keywords: behaviour change; intervention; practices; self-management; social networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Self-Management*
  • Social Networking*
  • Stakeholder Participation