Chronic condition self-management: expectations of responsibility

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Aug;84(2):e5-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.07.008. Epub 2010 Aug 11.


Objective: While self-management may be beneficial for many patients it assumes and encourages a particular conception of responsibility and self-management that may not fit with all patients' experience of their chronic conditions and their management. It therefore warrants further examination.

Methods: We examine the concept of self-management and responsibility from a range of standpoints, focusing on the Australian context.

Results: Attempts to meet people's needs run the risk of imposing specific conceptions of how people should live their lives. While self-management appears to be consistent with placing patients' needs, values and priorities at the heart of healthcare, ill-defined assumptions about responsibility may confound these goals.

Conclusions: Reflection on social determinants of health, the context in which patients seek self-management support from health services, and how their needs and preferences are listened to by health professionals, is critical for the collaborative self-management partnership between them to be effectively realized.

Practice implications: Providing services without reflecting on the meaning of self-management for the person with chronic conditions creates unintended assumptions about responsibility, engagement and care provision which may serve to alienate and further stigmatise some patients. Often, these are the very patients with complex needs who need such service support the most.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient-Centered Care / methods*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Self Care*
  • Social Responsibility