STEM experts want us to re-think the way we discuss eating disorders

Eating disorder research has been historically very poorly funded. Government investment marks a significant turning point. Image: Shutterstock

Researchers are championing a new national campaign that urges Australians to rethink the way we discuss eating disorders

With so many awesome next-gen health science roles, being into medicine doesn’t necessarily equal a gig in a hospital or general practice. 

There are loads of important behind-the-scenes research opportunities in investigating untapped fields – and in the case of LaTrobe University’s Senior Research Fellow, Dr Sian McLean, its the prevention, detection and treatment of eating disorders. 

STEM experts head national research strategy

As President of the Australian & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders, Dr McLean has dedicated much of her career to studies surrounding mental health.

And her most recent challenge? Contributing to the development of a new National Eating Disorder Research Strategy – Australia’s first ever national research and translation strategy focused primarily on a mental health disorder. 

Dr Siân McLean has a strong research involvement in body image and eating disorders. Image: LaTrobe University

“We need to work with clinicians so they can intervene effectively, using the best research,” she stresses. “And we all need to be aware of the early warning signs of eating disorders, especially in people who might not fit public stereotypes.”

Notoriously under-funded and under-researched, today eating disorders are currently affecting one million Australians – a concerning figure that’s likely even higher given the early signs are significantly stigmatised and not recognised. 

Luckily this week the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, made an important announcement – calling for a $13 million National Eating Disorder Research Centre.

There are 10 fields experts are keen to deep dive into. Image: InsideOut

Led by InsideOut and championed by eating disorder researchers and clinicians like Dr McLean, this co-designed strategy was contributed to by over 480 individuals as well as both national and state peak advocacy bodies.

And the top 10 priority research areas proposed? Stigma and health promotion, risk and protective factors, prevention, early identification, equity of access, do no harm, early intervention, support families, individuals medicine and treatment. 

Such an important opportunity to integrate research and clinical practice on an issue effecting so many young people! Head to InsideOut for updates on Dr Sian McLean and the organisation’s national research plans. 

If you or someone you know are seeking support, the InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders – a collaboration between the Sydney Local Health District and the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health is a really great resource.


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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