DailyStrength — the health support social network

dailystrengthlogo.bmpDailyStrength is another one of those Internet sites you swear you’ve heard of before, because the idea sounds so obvious and the need so great.

It is a health support social network, and it has just raised a first round of funding from Redpoint Ventures.

Health care has been a popular theme in recent years. You’ve got search engines like Kosmix and Healthline, advice sites for doctors, and large informational sites like WebMD. But none have developed vibrant social networks. WebMD has messsage boards, but that’s it.

If you’ve got second-stage breast cancer, and you’re about to take a drug called Tamoxifen, what happens when you do that? Where do women go to find people who are also taking the drug, correspond with each other, and give each other virtual “hugs” at 3am? That’s the place DailyStrength aims to be, says co-founder Doug Hirsch.

It is early days for the site. It takes a second to see all that is there; its front-page is a bit busy. But once you dig deeper and play around with it, it is quite logical. Each member of the network belongs to a community centered around a health problem, say breast cancer — and they each can create a personal profile. Finally, there’s a listing of treatments, which is also cross referenced with communities and the profiles.

Hirsch likes to point, for example, to the second most popular treatment, Lexapro. The Lexapro treatment page shows that more than 100 people have used it, but that only half of them find it works. But it shows ten people used it for bipolar disorder, and 80 percent of them report it successful. While not scientific, it provides a good guide nonetheless.

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The site then lets you drill down, by selecting the “bipolar disorder” link, which takes you to a page with more information about that health problem, and a listing of members suffering from it, and the discussions they are having about it. See screenshot here:

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DailyStrength has four employees, and six contractors. It is based in Los Angeles, but is still semi-virtual, with Hirsch’s other co-founders Lars Nilsen and Josh Deford in Santa Cruz and Portland. DailyStrength launched quietly in September, and had 50,000 unique visitors in November, Hirsch says.

Inspiration for the site, Hirsch says, came during college when Hirsch watched a cousin get liver cancer and die within a few months. Hirsch “ran away” from it at the time, but the experience stuck with him, he says.

Coincidentally, Hirsch developed an interest in the social aspects of the Web. Hirsch joined Yahoo in 1996 as employee #20 and ran product management at Yahoo for chat, personals, message boards, groups and mail. He left in 2001, and ran Yahoo’s entertainment division for four years. Hirsch was also a vice president at Facebook for a few months, until he left earlier this year. His two co-founders are also ex-Yahoos.

The Web’s social networking sites are only popular among the 15 to 25 age-group, Hirsch says, with the exception of LinkedIn. To be popular among a wider age group, a site has to deal with a subject people are passionate about — for example, sex, money or survival. That explains LinkedIn, Hirsch says — it serves peoples’ perceived need to network in order to make money. Health and survival, however, are passions that don’t have social networking outlet to date, he said. Thus DailyStrength.

There are a slew of other sites that come close to what DailyStrength does, such as CarePages, and CaringBridge and OrganizedWisdom, but none of them have focused as much on networking or offer the latest Web 2.0 tools and look we’ve become familiar with. One more recent Silicon Valley competitor, MDJunction, comes close; it is still focused on breast cancer, but is building out. There is also niche site Breatcancer.org, which has a vibrant community, but it is non-profit. Steve Case launched Revolution Health in April last year, but it’s not clear where it is headed.

(Hat-tip to Noah)