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Preventing obesity, eating disorders and related problems

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:39am
Prevention efforts need to address both obesity and eating disorders in comprehensive ways that do no harm. They will include preventing the problems of hazardous weight loss, undernutrition of teenage girls, dysfunctional eating and size prejudice.

Comprehensive prevention programs focus on healthy lifestyles for children of all sizes. They encompass the needs at both ends of the weight scale and any extreme of eating behavior. No child is left out. Prevention involves intervention at three levels:

Primary aimed at preventing eating and weight problems in the general population, Secondary focused on early stage problems or high-risk individuals, Tertiary treatment of weight and eating problems (2) Currently, both primary and secondary prevention are in their infancy.

Obesity and eating disorders are being addressed at the third or treatment level. However, eating disorder treatment is often prolonged and expensive, and while it results in improvement or recovery for a majority, advanced cases end in death in alarmingly high numbers. Similarly, obesity has been treated by diet and other weight loss methods for many decades with little success.

Therefore, primary prevention in schools is urgent getting to the problem at an earlier stage. The sooner sound preventive programs that reach all students with the same healthy messages from all school staff can be put in place, the less need there will be for treatment.

Secondary prevention in schools may involve counseling, weighing and measuring students if deemed appropriate, screening for possible eating and weight problems, and referrals to health professionals. Counselors and school nurses are usually key to this process.

For a comprehensive and sustained program a health advisory team is needed. If the team includes health providers as well as school staff, it might address all three levels of prevention. More
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