Purpose To carry out a systematic review of program outcomes used in the evaluation of group-based self-management interventions aimed at people with arthritis and other chronic conditions.
Methods The systematic search was performed across databases MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO. Both between-group and within-group effect sizes (ES) were calculated. Results were interpreted as small (ES ~ 0.2), medium (ES ~ 0.5), or large (ES ~ 0.8) effects.
Results The majority of 18 included trials investigated the effectiveness of arthritis-specific interventions. Across most outcomes, small effects on course participants were shown. While effects on knowledge were large (between-group ES = 0.78), effects on clinical outcomes such as pain (ES = 0.10) were negligible to small.
Conclusions This paper is consistent with other reviews in this area, suggesting that people with arthritis receive only marginal benefits from participating in chronic disease self-management interventions. When looking at the types of outcomes that trials are based on, however, alternative explanations for these results seem probable. As evaluations heavily rely on patient self-report, current approaches to program evaluation may not be sufficient to assess the intended impact of self-management education. An in-depth investigation of the types of outcomes assessed is provided in a separate paper.
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