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The Australian National Eating Disorders Collaboration: Part One

Posted Nov 11 2009 10:03pm
Some readers of 'Beautiful You' may wonder why I would be writing a post about the following, but the answer is very simple. For any person to live their best and most beautiful life, they must feel beautiful about themselves and their place in the world. For the increasing numbers of people living with an eating disorder this sort of feeling is either extremely difficult, or at their time of greatest suffering, impossible. I have seen first hand that feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, fear and self loathing are never more acute than for those suffering an eating disorder. Finding ways to treat and beat this illness and support those who are experiencing it has become a significant part of my life's work. While 'Beautiful You' is very much an extension of me personally, it is very connected to this work as well.

In December 2008 The Butterfly Foundation received funding from the Federal Government to lead a collaboration of interested parties in the deliverance of a report to the government advising them of the best possible ways forward in the treatment of eating disorders in Australia.  This report is due in January 2010 and has come after many, many years of tough lobbying to government by the Foundation, consistently informing them that eating disorder services across the spectrum of care are inadequate in this country.

The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) has been working all year liaising with, listening to, learning from and researching with interested parties in the eating disorders field and community.  This culminated last weekend in a nation wide forum held in Canberra, allowing all these shared voices to come together.  There were people present who were living with an eating disorder, had recovered from one or were carers.  There were brave families in the room who had suffered the most immeasurable of losses: the death of a family member or friend to an eating disorder.  They came to share, speak and have input to this vital document and I pray that as one of the official scribes of the day I managed to get down as much of what they said that I possibly could.  They stood beside doctors, clinicians, teachers, youth workers, family therapists and others. 

It was an inspiring and hopeful day that will feed into the final report that I consider to be one of the most important health documents ever presented to an Australian government.  This issue impacts on all Australians - not just those experiencing an eating disorder.  It impacts on children and young people who live in a society that promotes a thin ideal, fad diets and body dissatisfaction and their parents who must successfully try to guide them through this minefield.  It affects teachers, community workers and other educators who are trying to find ways to support children and young people with their self regard.  It affects all women and all men who have ever been made to feel less than adequate about their bodies, self and appearance as we try to find ways to send out far reaching health promotion messages to combat this.  And of course it affects those who have a lived experience of this illness.  As I said - it affects all of us.

The two chief messages I wish to share with you the forum and the work of the NEDC thus far are that:

- We want to see eating disorders to be a priority, mainstream health issue in Australia

and that

- We believe that a healthy, diverse and inclusive Australian society acts to prevent eating disorders

These things will be achieved through better co-ordination, funding and collaboration in the areas of Promotion and Prevention, Identification and Early Intervention, Consumers and Carers Voices and Treatment Standards and Strategies.  If we can get the goverment to understand how important this is we hope to:

- Save people's lives
- Bring forth a generation of children and young people who are body proud and confident
- Make best practice treatment available and affordable for all
- Develop the eating disorder workforce so that it is world standard
- Give consumers and carers the ongoing voice, support and compassion they need
- Increase the amount of research being done that informs best practice
- And so much more

The final report is due early next year.  I'll be back with an update then.  Until that time I wish the writers, researchers and compilers of this report all the very best.  You hold precious thoughts, concepts, wishes and recommendations in your hands that we need to be heard and acted upon at the highest possible level.
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