Beginning in 1996, the Self-Management Education (SME) programs were developed by the Division of Family and Community Medicine in the School of Medicine at Stanford University for people with chronic health problems, their caregivers, and families. Each program is evidence-based, unique and designed as a small-group workshop series to help people gain self-confidence in their ability to control their symptoms, better manage their health, and lead a fuller life.
The workshops are facilitated by two certified leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals, in community settings like libraries, senior centers or churches. Each workshop meets for 2.5 hours for 7 weeks.
Tools for Better Health workshops are free, and each participant in the workshop receives a copy of the book, Living a Healthy Life With Chronic Conditions, 4th Edition, and an audio relaxation CD, Relaxation for Mind and Body.
Several types of SME programs have been developed and address many different conditions including arthritis, chronic pain and diabetes. Tools for Better Health is a Chronic Disease Self Management SME program, which means it isn't specific to any type of chronic condition.
Tools for Better Health does not conflict with existing programs or treatments and is designed to enhance regular and disease-specific treatments and education programs. Multiple studies have demonstrated SME programs result in positive personal growth, reductions in healthcare expenditures, and an increase in the use of appropriate healthcare resources.
The way the program is taught makes it effective. Participants are very involved in the classes and support each other. Success builds participants' confidence in their ability to manage their health and maintain active and fulfilling lives.