Chronic illness self-management: locating the ‘self’


  • Tina Koch PhD RN,

  • Peter Jenkin MPHC BN RN,

  • Debbie Kralik PhD RN

Tina Koch,
RDNS Research Unit,
31 Flemington Street,
South Australia 5065.


Aim.  In this paper, we present the findings of a recent research project in which we explored self- management with older people who were diagnosed with asthma.

Background.  Asthma self-management literature has focused on the need for the patient to ‘adhere’ to prescribed therapies, in particular the taking of medications, monitoring of respiratory function or recognizing and avoiding triggers.

Method.  Data were generated during a period of 9 months from three sources; in-depth interviews with 24 older participants, an open-ended questionnaire and two mixed-gender participatory action research groups.

Findings.  Based on current literature, our previous research findings which have ‘unpacked’ what is ‘self’-management, and data generated in this project, we propose that three asthma management models are in operation: Medical Model of Self-management, Collaborative Model of Self-management and Self-Agency Model of Self-management. Locating the ‘self’ in self-management means acknowledging that many people living with a chronic condition are already self-determining and their expertise should be acknowledged as such.

Conclusion.  Health care professionals can best facilitate people toward self-agency by embracing new understandings of self-management in long-term illness. This process is enhanced when the expertise a person brings to the management of their condition is given the respect it deserves. There needs to be a focus on providing people with the means to grow and learn in a participative relationship that cannot be fully realized with ‘off the shelf’ self-management solutions.