Chronic Condition Self-Management: Working in Partnership toward Appropriate Models for Age and Culturally Diverse Clients

Article excerpt


Chronic conditions place a significant burden on the Australian health care system, and this burden continues to increase. This literature review examines the concepts of chronic illness and chronic condition self-management (CCSM), particularly in the context of asthma. It explores the implementation of, and barriers to, CCSM in the modern health care system with a focus on CCSM in children and adolescents, and the differences that need to be recognized when dealing with Indigenous Australian children.

Keywords: chronic condition; chronic condition self-management; children and adolescents; asthma; Indigenous


It is estimated that just over 70 per cent of Australians have a chronic condition and this is likely to increase 10 per cent by 2020 (Jordan & Osborne, 2007). Comparing this group to people without a chronic condition they place a greater demand on resources and an already over burdened health care system (Cunningham et al., 2008; Newland & Zwar, 2006). Asthma is one such chronic condition (Newland & Zwar, 2006) and is identified as a national (Saini et al., 2008) and state health priority due to its impact on communities and care resources (Department of Health South Australia, 2007). One in nine children is diagnosed with asthma. Unlike some other chronic conditions, it is not preventable but managed with a focus on symptoms, comorbidity reduction (Couzos & Davis, 2005) and reduced demands on health care intervention (Cunningham et al., 2008; Newland & Zwar, 2006). How can chronic conditions, such as asthma, be better managed before they overwhelm the Australian health care system? Are there solutions and are these achievable within present health systems and care frameworks? This paper will define chronic condition, identify barriers to health care delivery changes for persons with chronic conditions, and explore chronic condition self-management (CCSM) children and adolescents with chronic conditions.


The literature defines chronic condition in adults as lasting longer than 6 months (Jordan, Briggs, Brand, & Osborne, 2008) and the chance of developing a chronic condition increases with age (Newman, 2008). No such definition exists for children and adolescents with a chronic condition however children with 'special health care needs' are defined as at risk of a chronic condition and as requiring care beyond the general paediatric population (Sawyer, 2007; Sawyer & Aroni, 2005). Thus the concept of chronic condition in children and adolescents differs from that in adults and therefore planned management needs to differ between these groups. Chronic conditions place significant burdens on family units and as these children mature the burden increases for families, health professionals and health care systems (Sawyer & Aroni, 2005). A report by Sawyer (2007, p. 622) found that 'one in five children and adolescents have special health care needs and one in 10 children do not live a full and active life because of the limitations and/or disabilities from their chronic conditions'. If the focus of self-management is not broadened to include children and adolescents, current funding for this strategy will quickly be redirected toward other projects.


The final report of the South Australian Generational Health Review (Government of South Australia, 2003, p. 1) found that for the health industry to be sustainable into the future a shiftin paradigm is required from acute care to primary care focus with its emphasis on early detection and prevention of disease. There are contrasting thoughts regarding the impact of this shiftfor people with chronic conditions. Matheson et al. (2006) studied the management of airway disease in a large cohort of Australians and identified it vital that persons with chronic conditions be managed in acute care areas where specialist professionals are better equipped with expert knowledge. …


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