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Curbing eating disorders

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Michael Levine, 740.427.5371, 740.397.2217, (3 hrs ahead), levine@kenyon.edu
Elliot Goldner, 778.782.5027, 604.868.7786 (cell), egoldner@sfu.ca, Vancouver resident
Deborah Grimm, 604.730.5542, deborah@lookingglassbc.com, Vancouver resident
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035, cthorbes@sfu.ca

April 14, 2008
Prevention is the key to curbing eating disorders like anorexia nervosa — the most lethal of all mental disorders among girls and women in middle and upper income countries worldwide — says Michael Levine. The world-renowned American author of several books on eating disorders will present his research at a series of workshops, April 24-25, at Simon Fraser University’s downtown Vancouver campus, 515 West Hastings.

SFU’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (CARMHA) in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Looking Glass Foundation are sponsoring the workshops. It will be of particular interest to educators, professionals and students in the health sciences.

Elliot Goldner, a CARMHA health sciences professor and former director of Eating Disorders in B.C. at St. Paul’s Hospital, notes that two to five percent of young women and teenage girls have serious eating disorders. A lesser but significant number of young men struggle with the condition and many teens struggle with cycles of unhealthy dieting and negative body image.

“Some young people with serious eating disorders in B.C. have had to be sent for treatment to the U.S. because of waiting lists for treatment at B.C. Children’s and St. Paul’s Hospital,” says Goldner.

“Our centre hopes that Levine’s workshop will help parents, families, teachers and health professionals develop prevention strategies to help mitigate a potentially deadly health problem that is increasing rapidly among youth.”

Levine, a psychology professor at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, has spent the last two decades studying the ways in which sociocultural factors, such as mass media, influence body image and perpetuate disordered eating. Levine believes primary and secondary prevention programs are key to reducing the prevalence of eating disorders, especially among teens.

“Primary prevention refers to programs or efforts that are designed to prevent the occurrence of eating disorders before they begin. It is intended to help promote healthy development,” explains Levine, who is internationally recognized for his leadership in promoting eating disorder prevention and awareness. “Secondary prevention, sometimes called targeted prevention, refers to programs designed to recognize and treat an eating disorder before it spirals out of control. The earlier an eating disorder is discovered and addressed, the better the chance for recovery.”

The cultivation of media literacy is a vital component of Levine’s prevention programs. He defines media literacy as being more than an in-depth understanding of how media influence cultural attitudes and actions, such as the glorification of thinness and dieting. Media literacy includes evaluating media’s positive and negative attributes, understanding how to protect oneself from the latter and using the media to promote a healthier and more flexible attitude about fashion, food and fitness.

Backgrounder: Curbing eating disorders

Psychology professor Michael Levine’s concept of media literacy is vital to the success of the American National Eating Disorder Association’s GO GIRLS! Curriculum. The multi-lesson program cultivates young girls’ awareness and analysis of how the media’s promotion of body images perpetuates eating disorders. The program shows them how to engage in activism and advocacy work, and how to shift unhealthy media coverage of body images.

The Looking Glass Foundation is a non-profit organization that is working to create in B.C. Canada’s only non-profit full-service residential treatment centre for adolescents with eating disorders.

“There are more than 100,000 people in B.C. suffering from anorexia and bulimia,” says Deborah Grimm, vice-president of The Looking Glass Foundation. “We spend more on disability related to eating disorders than prevention of a disease that is the greatest killer among mental illnesses.”

CARMHA works to promote effective preventative strategies for maintaining good population health and is supporting the Levine workshop as part of its community service activities.

Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge-eating. The latter disorder is often related to the development of obesity, which is on the rise. Goldner says, “In recent Canadian studies, close to 25 per cent of the adult population has been found to be obese, resulting in substantive health risks and problems.”

The April 24 evening workshop is open to the public by donation ($20 suggested). It includes the following events in room 1700 Labatt Hall:
•    Thursday, April 24, 9 a.m. to noon session for health care professionals
•    Thursday, April 24, 7 to 9 p.m. evening for parents, friends, families and community members
•    Friday, April 25, 9 a.m. to noon session for community care providers.
Please reserve online at http://www.lookingglassbc.com