A ten-year roadmap has been released to improve Australia’s response to eating disorder care.
The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) estimates more than a million Australians live with an eating disorder each year.
The NEDC developed the government-funded strategy for eating disorders with a focus on early intervention, inclusion, and ‘trauma-informed’ treatment.
It’s also called on social media platforms to do more to make their platforms safe.
Eating disorders are a group of mental health conditions. Unhealthy changes in behaviour, feelings and thoughts towards food and body image characterise the disorders. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorders often start in adolescence. They can lead to life-threatening physical and mental health complications.
A recent study found eating disorders among teens more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite increased knowledge and investment in treatment in recent years, the NEDC says Australia is experiencing a “national crisis” in caring for people living with eating disorders.
The strategy suggested a range of evidence-based and inclusive approaches to eating disorder care and treatment.
This includes individualised patient treatment plans that offer “timely treatment and at the level of intensity [a patient] needs”, and a need to de-stigmatise eating disorders being a ‘choice’ – a view the NEDC says has impacted public health resourcing for the sector.
The roadmap also called on social media networks to do more to make their platforms safe. It asked media organisations to promote inclusive language and images.
The NEDC called on states and territories to develop their own eating disorder plans to ensure consistent care is available nationally.First Nations care
The strategy acknowledged that the “appropriateness and responsiveness” of the “Western system of care” to meet the needs of First Nations people is yet to be formally assessed.
It recommended the development of culturally appropriate tools and treatment approaches for First Nations people. many Australians do not have access to minimum standards of care.
The NEDC will measure progress over the next decade across six key care areas: Prevention, identification, initial response, treatment, recovery support, and workforce.
For example, success in areas like prevention and identification would mean fewer people living with eating disorders, and a higher proportion of diagnoses at the earliest stages of illness.
Federal Assistant Minister for Mental Health, Emma McBride, said eating disorders are “among the most fatal of mental illnesses.” McBride highlighted that with proper support, those living with eating disorders can make a full recovery.
NEDC Advisory Consultant, Shannon Calvert, said eating disorders “impact all ages, genders, sexuality, and cultures.” Calvert added they are “often accompanied by co-existing health and mental health challenges.”
“To genuinely improve our system, the roadmap has shifted the priority from patient-centred to person-centred care,” Calvert said.
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