Self-management education programs in chronic disease: a systematic review and methodological critique of the literature

Arch Intern Med. 2004 Aug 9-23;164(15):1641-9. doi: 10.1001/archinte.164.15.1641.


Background: Self-management programs have been widely reported to help patients manage symptoms and contain utilization of health care resources for several chronic conditions, but to date no systematic review across multiple chronic diseases has been reported. We evaluated the efficacy of patient self-management educational programs for chronic diseases and critically reviewed their methodology.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE and HealthSTAR for the period January 1, 1964, through January 31, 1999, then hand searched the reference section of each article for other relevant publications. We included studies if a self-management education intervention for a chronic disease was reported, a concurrent control group was included, and clinical outcomes were evaluated. Two authors reviewed each study and extracted the data on clinical outcomes.

Results: We included 71 trials of self-management education. Trial methods varied substantially and were suboptimal. Diabetic patients involved with self-management education programs demonstrated reductions in glycosylated hemoglobin levels (summary effect size, 0.45; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.17-0.74); diabetic patients had improvement in systolic blood pressure (summary effect size, 0.20; 95% CI, 0.01-0.39); and asthmatic patients experienced fewer attacks (log rate ratio, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.35-0.83). Although we found a trend toward a small benefit, arthritis self-management education programs were not associated with statistically significant effects. Evidence of publication bias existed.

Conclusions: Self-management education programs resulted in small to moderate effects for selected chronic diseases. In light of evidence of publication bias, further trials that adhere to a standard methodology would help clarify whether self-management education is worthwhile.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis / therapy
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / therapy
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Self Care*