Australia to get world-leading eating disorder research centre

Headshot of Kimberley Caines
Kimberley CainesThe West Australian
Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Camera IconHealth Minister Greg Hunt. Credit: News Corp Australia

Nearly one million Australians with an eating disorder will soon have access to a world-leading research centre with the Federal Government investing $13 million to make it happen.

The country’s best researchers will come together to transform how eating disorders are diagnosed and treated in the future.

Eating disorders are increasing across the nation with 1442 people treated for bulimia, anorexia and other illnesses related to body image issues in WA in 2020/21.

This was a 20 per cent increase from the previous financial year.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said eating disorders were complex and affected people of all ages.

“There is evidence that early intervention into eating disorders can reduce the duration of the illness and improve outcomes for patients,” Mr Hunt said.

“It is possible for many people to make a full recovery if they get the right treatment at the right time.

“Eating disorders are a priority for the Morrison Government and the new research centre will find innovative ways to care for patients, improve prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery rates.”

Alarmingly, 70 per cent of people with an eating disorder will not receive treatment.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister David Coleman said the centre, which will be based at the InsideOut Institute at the University of Sydney, was the result of Australia’s first Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Strategy 2021-31.

“Globally, eating disorders have tragically high mortality rates,” Mr Coleman said.

“By working with researchers, clinicians, consumers and carers — locally and internationally — the new research centre will help to translate research into practice, build the capacity and capability of the research workforce, and ultimately improve the quality of life for all Australians with eating disorders, their families, supporters and carers.”

InsideOut director Associate Professor Sarah Maguire said the new centre was an important first step in addressing inequities in funding for eating disorder research and translation.

“InsideOut is honoured to lead the national consortium to drive this change,” she said.

“This announcement is about the future. It’s about supporting and enabling much-needed scientific breakthroughs that help prevent illness, that get people better and ensure our treatments don’t inadvertently cause harm.”

Butterfly CEO Kevin Barrow said COVID-19 had created the “perfect storm” for eating disorders across Australia.

“It’s a combination of disrupted routines and social isolation,” Mr Barrow said.

“Even though Australia hasn’t suffered significant lockdowns, there’s been a lot of anxiety. This has created a real surge and demand.

“At the moment, the waiting lists for a private psychologist or a private hospital program is so large that people are just falling through the cracks.”

Butterfly Foundation 1800 334 673

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