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New hope for eating disorders

By Sharon Gray

Wilf Curran knows the heartbreak of having a child with an eating disorder and not knowing what to do.

“The entire family suffers beyond your wildest dreams,” he said. “Back a few years ago when I was wondering where to turn I saw an ad for a meeting Vince Withers was organizing. I went to that meeting and watched people coming in – everyone had a look of anguish.”

Mr. Withers founded the Eating Disorders Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2006 after the death of his daughter Renata.

That foundation is one of the partners in a pilot project unveiled at a news conference Nov. 12 called the Eating Disorder Interprofessional Community Capacity Building Project (EDICCB). This project, the first of its kind in Canada, is co-ordinated by Memorial University and Eastern Health. It will engage the largest group of health care and other professionals ever to tackle the complexities of these disorders and was launched in Corner Brook on Nov. 26-27.

“Joining the Eating Disorder Foundation was a step for me in doing something,” said Mr. Curran. “For me, this project is the answer to where I go tomorrow.”

Mr. Curran is well known in the construction industry and perhaps better known as a traditional musician. What is not so well known is how his daughter has battled one of these deadly disorders. Hers is one of many hundreds of stories in this province, hundreds of individual struggles that require a collaborative effort to address.

The EDICCB is led by a team including nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists and dietitians, who will train other professionals, such as social workers, school guidance counselors and family physicians to deal with all aspects of eating disorders, from prevention through follow-up. Specialized care will be offered to both clients and families.

It’s an important program for the family doctor. Dr. Cheri Bethune of the Discipline of Family Medicine described it as a wonderful resource. “The family doctor is the first contact with the health care system. Family doctors may see patients with eating disorders long before they have serious complications and we may be able to identify eating disorders early before they develop into serious health problems.”

The EDICCB pilot project has a six part tool kit – prevention, identification, interprofessional care, early intervention, referral and follow-up. This innovative and collaborative approach includes presentations, videos, interactive exercises and case studies.

The Eating Disorder Interprofessional Community Capacity Building Project is part of a three-year project was funded by Health Canada through Memorial’s Centre for Collaborative Health Professional Education (CCHPE). The project was developed as part of collaborations involving the Faculties of Medicine and Education, the Schools of Social Work, Nursing and Pharmacy, and Memorial’s Counselling Centre.

The final report on a three-year project promoting interprofessional education at Memorial University concludes that it is important to continue to build on the success of the project by establishing a College of

Interprofessional Health and Community Services at Memorial.