Leesa Costello

Health Narratives

Alistair Edwards Photo files

Leesa Costello

Assistant Professor
Edith Cowan University


Leesa is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher in the School of Exercise and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University which has enabled her to undertake innovative research in the field of health communications. While Costello’s track record has been around social networking, online community and social media strategies for health promotion and improvement, she developed an interest in plant-based nutrition during her PhD research which was designed to help heart patients adopt healthier lifestyles via online communications.


As a PhD student, she was responsible for the design, development and implementation of the HeartNET intervention which was funded by the Australian Research Council as a Linkage Project between the National Heart Foundation and ECU during 2004. The intervention relied upon the building of an online community in order to support heart patients, reduce their secondary risk factors, and foster more meaningful communications between the industry partner and its supporters.

Sine her PhD, Leesa has used her expertise in health communication, community development and netnography to develop research in relation to breast cancer support, sedentary behaviours, and the social construction of plant-based diets. Leesa has also been involved in research with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which produced a virtual community for men’s health and wellness. Currently, she supervises eight post-graduate students who are undertaking various social health research projects at the PhD and Masters level. Leesa is experienced in grant writing and convenes the Population Health Research Group at ECU.


health communication, netnography, health promotion, online community, social media, qualitative research, plant-based nutrition

Key publications

(Costello was previously Bonniface)

Costello, L, Dare, J., Askander, G., & McDermott, ML. (2014, forthcoming). How should online health-promoting communities address the health hazards of too much sitting? 3rd Annual Global Healthcare Conference. Singapore. http://globalhc-conf.org/index.html

Costello, L., Dare, J., Green, L., & Bradshaw, V. (2013). Sustaining online communities in the charitable health sector: How to keep a good thing going. Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA). Murdoch, Western Australia: Murdoch University. Retrieved from http://www.anzca.net/component/docman/search_result.html

Dare, J., Costello, L, & Green, L. (2013). Nutritional narratives: Cultural and communications perspectives on plant-based diets. Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA). Murdoch, Western Australia: Murdoch University. Retrieved from http://www.anzca.net/component/docman/search_result.html

Costello, L., & Green, L. (2012). Reflecting upon the challenges of building an online community, or: ‘A Techies guide to the help dummies need’. In M. Strano, H. Hrachovec, F. Sudweeks, & C. Ess (Eds.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology and Communication (pp. 359-371). Aarhus, Denmark: School of Information Technology, Murdoch University. Retrieved from http://issuu.com/catac/docs/catac12_proceedings_part_2

Witney, C., Green, L., Costello, L. & Bradshaw, V. (2013). Creativity in an online community as a response to the chaos of a breast cancer diagnosis. M/C Journal, 16(1): catastrophe. Retrieved from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/598

Costello, L., Witney, C., Green, L., & Bradshaw, V. ( 2012). Self-revelation in an online health community: Exploring issues around co-presence for vulnerable members. In C. Anyanwu & K. Green (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2012 Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference. Adelaide: Australia. Retrieved from http://www.anzca.net/component/docman/search_result.html

Dyer, J., Costello, L., & Martin, P. (2010). Social support online: Benefits and barriers to participation in an Internet support group for heart patients. The Australian Community Psychologist, 22(1), 48-63.

Green, L., Costello, L., & Dare, J. (2010). Veganism, health expectancy, and the communication of sustainability. Australian Journal of Communication, 37(3), 51-72.

Green, L., & Costello, L. (2009). Fractures between an online and offline community (and the ethical responses). International Journal of Web Based Communities, 5(3), 462-475.

Bonniface, L., & Henley, N. (2008). ‘A drop in the bucket’: Collective efficacy perceptions and environmental behaviour. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 43(3), 345-348.

Bonniface, L., & Green, L. (2007). Finding a new kind of knowledge on the HeartNET website. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 24(s1), 67-76.

Bonniface, L., Green, L., & Swanson, M. (2006). Communication on a health-related website offering therapeutic support: Phase 1 of the HeartNET website. Australian Journal of Communication, 33(2,3), 89-107.