PURPOSE the purpose of this study was to review the existing empirical evidence about factors that contribute to effective diabetes self-management as indicated by healthy outcomes in persons with the disease, with a specific focus on self-efficacy, to determine the link between learned self-efficacy and effective diabetes self-management in adults. METHODS A systematic review was conducted of the extant literature from 1985-2001 that described factors related to effective self-management of diabetes. The review included theoretical and empirical articles. The search engines included CINAHL, MEDLINE, PUBMED, and COCHRANE. RESULTS Empirical evidence supports the following factors to improve the education outcomes for adults with diabetes: involve people with diabetes in their own care, guide them in actively learning about the disease, explore their feelings about having the disease, and teach them the skills necessary to adjust their behavior to control their own health outcomes. Thus, the goal for educating people with diabetes is to improve their individual self-efficacy and, accordingly, their self-management ability. CONCLUSIONS Education sessions need to involve fewer lectures and more practical, interactive exercises that focus on developing specific skills. Follow-up contact is a valuable method for helping people make a healthy adjustment to living with diabetes.