A systematic review was conducted to determine the benefits of disease-specific health education for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A search was conducted through Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Embase, Cochrane Library, Physiotherapy Evidence Database and reference lists to obtain publications reporting on educational interventions compared with usual medical care. Two reviewers independently assessed each paper for methodological quality and data extraction. Thirteen publications describing 10 randomized controlled trials were identified for inclusion. The studies reported on a very broad variety of outcomes and follow-up periods, making a meta-analysis not possible for most measures. Didactical educational intervention for the COPD population appeared to have minimal effect on health outcomes including quality of life, health care utilization, exercise capacity or lung function and is therefore not the education delivery method recommended. Education focusing on self-management showed encouraging results with a tendency for improvements in quality of life and health care utilization, but the results did not reach statistical significance as sample sizes were insufficient to detect an effect. Further research is required into self-management education as it is not possible to make generalizations from the current published literature as to the benefits in changing health status in the COPD population.