Evidence: Helping people help themselves

A review of the evidence considering whether it is worthwhile to support self-management

May 2011

Debra de Silva
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Key points

  • Evidence suggests that supporting self-management works. Supporting people to look after themselves can improve their motivation, the extent to which they eat well and exercise, their symptoms and clinical outcomes and can even change how they use health services.
  • A wide range of initiatives are described as ‘self-management support’ and some may be more effective than others.
  • Many different types of support are important components of the jigsaw needed to encourage self-management, but information provision alone is unlikely to be sufficient to motivate behaviour change and improve outcomes.

This rapid review compiles evidence about the effects of supporting self-management on people’s quality of life, clinical outcomes and health service use.  

Reviewers searched more than 10 bibliographic databases for research evidence published up until September 2010. More than 100,000 reports were scanned and the findings from over 550 high quality studies are included in the review. It does not aim to be exhaustive but instead provides an easy to use compilation of up to date evidence.

Self-management support interventions can be divided into those that focus on building knowledge and technical skills (such as insulin management) versus those that aim to build self-efficacy (confidence in self-care). The report provides a figure that illustrates these typologies and positions various types of self-management support along the continuum.

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