Experts say smarter and more targeted approaches to eating disorders are needed. 

As anorexia nervosa rates continue to climb, eating disorder experts are examining the efficiency and availability of treatment options in Australia’s health system.

Increased demand for more services creates the need for smarter tailored service provision, says Flinders University Professor of Psychology Tracey Wade.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows a significant increase in overnight hospital admissions for anorexia nervosa in young Australian females (aged 15-29) in the past two decades.

Professor Wade says improving the quality of targeted services is more important than providing more general services for these conditions and other eating disorders.

She has reviewed a streamlined day program that provided support and incentives for young women (average age 25) to self-manage disordered eating conditions including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

The study tentatively concludes that moderate decrease in costs but increasing opportunities for patient autonomy did not negatively impact outcomes.

“Both for hospital, partial hospital day programs and other treatments, we must continue to monitor clinical outcomes, as well as any additional disadvantage to patients including food for meals, staffing levels and patient care,” says Professor Wade. 

The researchers recommended further research on a larger cohort of patients to identify the best formats for specific groups of eating disorders.