Missouri Eating Disorders Association Develops Virtual Programming to Expand Reach | Gatherings & Benevolence

Photo courtesy of the Eating Disorders Association of Missouri

“The pandemic has created the perfect storm for eating disorders,” says Lisa Iken, executive director of the Missouri Eating Disorders Association. As isolation and stress affected people with eating disorders and body image issues, the association stepped up its efforts to offer virtual programming, creating new channels to serve a wider audience in the process.

The organization’s Feed the Facts program, which provides education and awareness about eating disorders in local schools, established a virtual program that is now used in schools across the state. Locally, the association responded to the increased need for support by creating monthly virtual and in-person support groups led by a doctor, therapist or dietician and a peer leader. “The peer leader is a comforting addition that provides a unique perspective to the group, as this person can relate to group participants from a ‘been there, done that’ perspective, as well as a beacon of hope and recovery. “, says Iken. .

Before the pandemic, the Missouri Eating Disorders Association was already working to reach the 10% of the population diagnosed with an eating disorder, as well as those who could support someone with an eating disorder. The organization aims to educate as many people as possible in order to reach those who are suffering in silence, says Iken.

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“Our data, based on middle and high school students only, shows that 30% of students currently have it or know someone who has it,” Iken says. “Prior to [the Feed the Facts] Presentation, 58 Percent of Students Can’t Recognize Signs of an Eating Disorder; after the presentation, this number increases to 90%. Prior to the presentation, 66% of students think an eating disorder is a disease; after presentation 84% to know an eating disorder is a disease.

Feed the Facts includes a student program designed to supplement middle and high school health courses. From 2016 to 2021, the program has been presented to over 45,000 students, including over 1,500 presentations. “The bottom line is [that] not knowing, not doing, is deadly,” notes Iken. “Only a third of people with eating disorders receive treatment. The mortality rate for people without treatment can be as high as 20%. … Prevention is as important as education and awareness. With treatment, this rate drops dramatically to 2-3% of deaths. Research shows that the earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcomes for the person with the eating disorder.

As Missouri’s only nonprofit organization specific to eating disorders, the association provides free help, resources, support, and education to all members of the community. “I am personally very proud to be part of an organization that is making a difference every day by breaking the silence surrounding this life-threatening health epidemic,” Iken said. “It is through education that we can destigmatize this disease.”

Eating Disorders Association of Missouri, 314-685-4100, moeatingdisorders.org

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