An increasing number of interventions have been developed for patients to better manage their chronic illnesses. They are characterised by substantial responsibility taken by patients, and are commonly referred to as self-management interventions. We examine the background, content, and efficacy of such interventions for type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and asthma. Although the content and intensity of the programmes were affected by the objectives of management of the illness, the interventions differed substantially even within the three illnesses. When comparing across conditions, it is important to recognise the different objectives of the interventions and the complexity of the issues that they are attempting to tackle. For both diabetes and asthma, the objectives are concerned with the underlying control of the condition with clear strategies to achieve the desired outcome. By contrast, strategies to deal with symptoms of pain and the consequences of disability in arthritis can be more complex. The interventions that were efficacious provide some guidance as to the components needed in future programmes to achieve the best results. But to ensure that these results endure over time remains an important issue for self-management interventions.