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Eating disorders – are we doing enough?

13 June, 2013

South Australia is "playing catch-up" when it comes to eating disorder prevention and support, a leading psychologist from Flinders University says.

Professor Tracey Wade, Dean of Flinders School of Psychology, says while the State Government’s $1.2 million annual investment in new eating disorder services from July 1 is a "great start", SA is still lagging behind the eastern states.

"Eating disorders have been under-resourced in this state for years, certainly in comparison to Victoria and New South Wales, so we’re really playing catch-up when we should be working towards a reputation of excellence in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders," Professor Wade said.

"We should be investing more money into prevention but also into training programs to help health workers feel more comfortable dealing with eating disorders, and we need to provide more support to carers because they’re a valuable resource and a partner in treatment," she said.

Under the government’s plan, a new state-wide day service will be introduced later this year providing four days of supervised meals and recovery-focussed group work.

The funding will also go towards a dedicated information, assessment and referral service, as well as specialised family-based therapy.

Professor Wade said the day service would help reduce hospital admissions and prevent health problems associated with eating disorders, while the "one-stop" assessment centre would provide much-needed support for families and carers.

"At the moment all we have in Adelaide is an inpatient service or a one-hour a week counselling appointment with a specialist but there’s a huge gap where people might be struggling but don’t need to be admitted to hospital," she said.

"The day program will help reduce this gap because people can have a couple of supervised meals and therapy in a supported setting without actually being admitted to hospital.

"The idea of a one-stop shop where people can ring up, go in for an assessment and discuss treatment options will also be a great benefit, not just for clients but for carers as they will now be able to access more support."

Professor Wade will discuss SA’a approaches to eating disorder prevention, treatment and support at a lecture for health workers and professionals on June 25.

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