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New effort seeks to improve care for LQBTQ, people of color with eating disorders

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Posted at 3:35 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 15:35:26-05

People of different races and in the LGBTQ communities may not be receiving the type of care they need for eating disorders. A new effort by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) is working to change that.

To give you an idea of the problem, Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior. Gay men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating than heterosexual men, but they're not always getting diagnosed.

“Which you know can be even more traumatizing to someone who has already been traumatized as a result of their race or gender or sexual orientation, only to have a medical provider invalidate their concerns about their eating by saying that they must not have an eating disorder,” said Lynn Slawsky, Executive Director at ANAD

The association added demographic questions to its free helpline less than a month ago as part of its new initiative for inclusive care. So far, it’s found 30% of callers to the helpline are non-white. About 12% are gender non-conforming.

But it found when it surveyed people about care, responses included that they were the only Black person in the room at their treatment center, and that their eating disorder was due to their racial trauma. Or, they put that they're non-binary on their entrance form, but that wasn't addressed and they were assigned to women-only groups.

“You need to have a more diverse staff so that a Black person seeking treatment in a treatment center is not the only person talking amongst a group of white people who simply cannot relate to what it must feel like to have microaggressions thrown at them on a daily basis,” said Slawsky.

Prioritizing diverse hiring is one of the new guidelines the association just developed for treatment centers. The guidelines also include having a client's personal pronouns in their electronic health record, having facilities that are accessible for people with disabilities and people in larger bodies, and using all gender restrooms.

Treatment centers who meet these will receive a seal of approval.

The eating disorders helpline can direct you to those approved centers. That number is 888-375-7767.

You can also find support groups specifically for people of color, LGBTQ and people in larger bodies at ANAD.org under the "get help" tab.