This issue of Patient Education and Counseling presents the state of the art of patient education in several European countries. It is based on papers presented at a meeting in Paris on the evolution and development of patient education in western, central and eastern Europe (May 1999). Also patient education in the US is presented in this issue. Patient education is defined as all the educational activities directed to patients, including aspects of therapeutic education, health education and clinical health promotion. Five important factors are identified in the development of patient education: (1) research and evidence based standards; (2) the organization of care; (3) training and methodological support; (4) professional values; and (5) acknowledgment, funding and place of patient education in health policy. Several of the discussed common orientations and priorities in the patient education in the reviewed countries are highlighted in this issue. And finally, an example of the possible integrated international practice in patient education in the field of diabetes is described in this issue. Several conclusions are drawn concerning future development of communication in health care within the framework of patient education in Europe.