The National Eating Disorders Association online program reveals a treatment gap.
Two years ago, a group of clinicians working with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), headquartered in New York City, developed an online screener to examine the possibility of eating disorder diagnosis and risk among adult respondents. Such an online screener might raise awareness about EDs, and more people might seek treatment as a result. The clinicians recently reported their preliminary results (Int J Eat Disord. 2019. 52:721).
Dr. E.E. Fitzsimmons-Craft at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, and colleagues at numerous institutions, analyzed the results from 71,362 adults who completed the Stanford-Washington University Screen on the NEDA website over 6 months in 2017. The profile of the respondents was: 91% female; 7.7% between the ages of 18 to 24 years; 89.6% non-Hispanic; and 84.7% White. Remarkably, 86% screened positive for an ED. Additionally, 10.2% were screened as being at high risk for developing an eating disorder and 85.9% had never received treatment. Only 3% were currently in treatment, and another 11% had been treated in the past.
The authors believe that the NEDA screening tool may be an important and helpful way to detect eating disorders in the general community, citing the fact that more than 71,000 adults responded over only 6 months. The screen readily identifies large numbers of people who appear to have eating disorders. Most striking is the finding that most were not receiving (or never had received) treatment. This underscores the importance of past work emphasizing that improving treatment utilization will have a more positive impact than increasing treatment effectiveness (Moessner and Bauer, 2017; 50:1378). [The results may also indicate that the screening may confirm the visitor’s suspicions that they have an eating disorder and thus help move them one step closer to treatment.]