Digital technology and improved health outcomes for regions: a case study of abestos-related suffers in regional NSW

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Buuljens, J, Tucker, J & Kozlowski, D 2014, 'Digital technology and improved health outcomes for regions: a case study of abestos-related suffers in regional NSW', in M Keppell & S Reushle (eds), Proceedings of Digital Rural Futures Conference: Regional futures, agricultural futures, digital futures, Toowoomba, Qld., 25-27 June, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Qld. ISBN: 9780646922201


Asbestos-related disease has considerable physical, social, psychological and economic impacts on those diagnosed, their carers and families. Asbestos-related disease limits mobility and often results in feelings of isolation. This is especially true of those who reside in regional areas. Isolation can lead to feelings of exclusion from ordinary living patterns and activities or, in other words, to social disadvantage. The role of support networks in the life of people with an asbestos-related diagnosis, and their carers, appears to be substantial and helps minimise the feelings of isolation and frustration from being unable to lead a normal life. This would suggest that increasing access to support networks would have noteworthy benefits for the diagnosed and their carers. One method that could provide increased access to support networks, thereby overcoming isolation and social disadvantage, is the use of information and communication technology to create and support online, peer-to-peer communities. This type of technology is particularly useful in a country like Australia, which suffers from the ‘tyranny of distance’ with a number of its citizens living in remote, rural and isolated locations many kilometres from urban centres. This paper presents details and findings from a pilot project that involved the creation of the Dusted Community, a peer-to-peer online community for men and women affected by an asbestos-related diagnosis. It was hoped that the Dusted Community, by addressing social connectedness directly, would provide substantial benefits both for individuals with an asbestos diagnosis and for their carers. The Dusted Community offered an online community to provide support, friendship, information and a sense of belonging to a wider community of asbestos affected people. The participants expressed strong support for an on-line community and emphasised the unique nature and challenges associated with an asbestos-related disease. This was especially so for women.