My focus on eating disorders began 2005, during the School Nurse Credentialing program at Fresno State University in California. Coincidently, in 2007, my daughter was diagnosed with anorexia nervous. Because of this personal connection, I continued my research on eating disorders while completed my Mater's in Nursing. My graduate project focused on development of a training tool kit to assist in early identification of eating disorders. During my Doctorate program at Western University, my research continued and identified the international prevalence of eating disorders. This lead me to uncover a valid, and reliable screening tool, to identify individuals at risk for eating disorders. Since 2009, I have guest lectured and presented oral podium presentations in the United States as well as internationally in England and Italy.
A review of literature indicates research has been conducted on eating disorders for several decades and in several countries. Publications can be found as early as 1949 in the Untied States, with evidence of research conducted worldwide in countries such as Hungry, Germany, the Untied Kingdom, Italy, Norway, France, Canada, Australia, China, Japan and Spain. Despite international research, the illusive prevalence of eating disorders is still difficult to determine. In the United States, eating disorders are not a mandated reportable disease, so statistics are gathered from individuals who are willing to admit to the disease. Research however, conclusively indicates treatment success depends on early disease identification. Anorexia in particular, poses an increase risk to individuals, with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Current literature identifies the age of onset between 10-20 years, indicating eating disorders have become more prevalent in high schools, middle schools, and even in elementary schools. Since the late 1990’s, research recommendations included the need for development of school base prevention programs and simplified screening tools to identify children at risk.
School-based screening programs can be very effective in early detection of eating disorder symptoms in children and adolescents. The SCOFF screening tool developed in England and tested internationally, has shown it’s reliability to accurately identify individuals at risk of developing an eating disorder. Despite research validating screening tools, and evidence base practice in support of school based screening programs, there are currently no mandated screenings programs for eating disorders. The lack of school based screening programs is a missed opportunity for early identification, referral for treatment, and avoidance of life threatening physical complications of eating disorders in children.