July 24, 2014

Timely Tidbit: School-based screening for eating disorders effective both in terms of cost and results

Warning: Could be mildly triggering for those that have struggled with an eating disorder.

Quick. I am going to say a word. You tell me what comes to mind.




Binge and purge.

Starvation diet.

What kind of person comes to mind?

Chances are, you had a similar stereotype--one that's hard to beat and actually detrimental to treating eating disorders. A recent post in the Digit Journal explains:
"Many cases of eating disorders go undetected for years. This may be because the stereotype that the typical teen with an eating disorder is a thin, affluent, white female. In reality, eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and both genders, and they affect people from all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds," says Kendrin R. Sonneville, ScD, RD, senior study author from Boston Children's Division of Adolescent Medicine.
So what can we do to combat this bit of human error? Sonneville's team's research indicates that school-wide screening for every student could be helpful. Prior to Sonneville's research, though, the cost-effectiveness had not been explored. The piece goes on to say:

The combination of under diagnosis, under treatment and high treatment costs has generated support for school-based screening, which could help identify teens with eating disorders. "However, the cost-effectiveness of school-based screening for eating disorders had not been demonstrated previously," says Sonneville. 
In order to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a school-based screening program, Sonneville and colleagues devised a computer simulation comparing annual screening of 10- to 17-year-olds to a no-screening scenario. 
The researchers found that the 5-question survey boosted detection and treatment for eating disorders. Implementing a school-based screening program is a bargain in terms of time and money; screening costs $0.35 per student, and the survey can be scored in a few minutes. 
A high school of 1800 students could be screened $630. School-wide screening would eliminate human biases. The survey's would ask basic questions to identify at risk teens.

Sounds like a win-win all around if you ask me.

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