National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, a campaign designed to increase awareness and education for people with eating disorders and their families, takes place from February 21-27, 2022.¹
Like patients and their loved ones, health care professionals working in eating disorders are often seeking further education and resources to better guide their patients. In November 2021, the Journal of Eating Disorders published research findings from a recent Legacy of Hope summit about issues related to eating disorder treatments.² The professionals at this summit came to a consensus about a number of recommendations for treatment. What were some of these recommendations?
Prevention and Detection
Prevention and early detection are crucial for effective care, but the consensus from the summit was that some methods of doing so were under-utilized despite showing promise. Eating disorder screenings at schools demonstrated efficacy at decreasing years lost to treating these disorders across elementary, middle, and high school students. Despite this, screening programs are rarely done in schools.
Early detection has also been difficult to achieve as symptoms are often missed in certain groups (communities of color, men, body types not typically associated with eating disorders). Without further education to better understand and recognize these symptoms, health care professionals are less equipped to provide adequate care for their patients, who experience higher symptom severity and lower quality of life the longer they go without treatment.
Another consensus was that health education in schools is not given a high enough priority, with insufficient training given to teachers on how to teach building better habits and address serious topics. Proper and targeted education should be given not only to teachers, but to caretakers and health care providers to maximize their ability to prevent and detect eating disorders.
One of the more prevalent issues in eating disorder care is a lack of access for patients. The different facets of eating disorder care each have varying costs, all of which can be a significant barrier to accessing proper treatment. For instance, a patient’s insurance may not cover specialized eating disorder treatment, or may not offer sufficient reimbursement. In addition to financial access barriers, many areas where patients live simply don’t have eating disorder treatment resources. Medical centers in some locations may not offer specific eating disorder care as a specialty.
Therefore, accessibility to affordable, high-quality eating disorder treatment was seen as one of the more urgent improvements needed.
Though patients with eating disorders can experience significant symptom severity and comorbidities, the consensus from the summit was that research on the topic is not as well-funded as it needs to be. Federal funding was seen as grossly insufficient, and this disparity in research funding makes it more difficult to take up careers in both eating disorder research and treatment. Professionals at the summit concluded that an expansion of research and funding was needed to advance treatment solutions.
1. NEDAwareness Week. National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-involved/nedawareness. Accessed February 16, 2022.
2. Blackwell D, Becker C, Bermudez O, et al. The legacy of hope summit: a consensus-based initiative and report on eating disorders in the U.S. and recommendations for the path forward. J Eat Disord. 2021;9(1):145. Published 2021 Nov 4. doi:10.1186/s40337-021-00501-w