Friday, November 14, 2014

Pushing Back on Outdated Information: Target--The Philadelphia Inquirer

Recently a piece ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer that was distressing. The piece is an interview with Sam Menaged, founder of Renfrew; much of what he said was taken out of context and their are also things he said (if the quotes are correct), that are concerning. As IEDAction believes that popular opinion influences policy, we felt contacting the paper was in order, and have sent this letter, signed by many advocates, to the editor of the business section, as well as a shorter letter to the editorial page editor we are hoping will be published.

Dear Mr. Toolan,
The interview, “Helping Women Who Hurt Themselves” in print and "Helping Those with Eating Disorders" online, written by Jane M. Von Berg in the Philadelphia Inquirer (11/10/2014) in which she interviews Renfrew founder Samuel Menaged did a disservice to the cause of eating disorder awareness. While it is positive that the Philadelphia Inquirer is covering eating disorders and bringing awareness to these deadly disorders (with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness), it is concerning how over-generalized and outdated the information was.
The piece mentions sexual abuse, low self-esteem and traumatic pasts as causes of eating disorders. While these circumstances can make it difficult for a person to recover from an eating disorder, there are no studies that show the factors stated cause eating disorders. What is most concerning is that there is no mention of biology and genetics in relation to development of an eating disorder. Perhaps this was covered in the interview and did not make the final edit.
Current research is showing that eating disorders have a biological underpinning and genetics account for up to 50-60% of the variability. A review published in issue 6 of 2014 Journal of Clinical Epidemiology  synthesizes some of the latest research regarding the biology and genetics of eating disorders.
Publishing incorrect and archaic information has far-reaching effects you may not have considered. Of those who read your paper, this may be the first time many are learning about eating disorders; this piece would provide them only with outdated theories for which there is no evidence. The tremendous danger of outdated information with no empirical basis is that it perpetuates society's misconceptions of eating disorders. It makes eating disorders seem like they are diseases of choice and not the serious, life threatening brain-based illness that they are; this can prevent life-saving early diagnosis and intervention. It perpetuates a Lifetime TV view of eating disorders, which is faulty and dangerous.
The pervasive misconceptions society has about eating disorders negatively impact access to evidence-based treatment and willingness of insurers to pay for treatment. According to the Eating Disorders Coalition, only one out of ten people receive treatment for their eating disorder and 50% of insurance companies cover only hospital care to stabilize a patient with no additional follow up treatment. Like treatment, equitable funding for eating disorder research is impacted by these misconceptions. Eating disorder research is dramatically underfunded when compared to other conditions, especially when adjusted for number of people affected. Misconceptions may not be the only reason for underfunding of research, but they are certainly not helpful.
Please consider running a piece in your newspaper to correct the misinformation that was published in the interview mentioned above. Thank you for consideration of this matter and we look forward to a dialogue on how to turn this into an overall positive by sharing the dramatic new knowledge recent research has yielded.


International Eating Disorder Action

Jennifer Denise Taunton Ouelette, San Diego, CA
Amy Elizabeth Cunningham, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Evelyn Gurdin Cohen, Albany, NY
Louise Stoward,Tasmania, Australia
Lisa Springer, Cloverdale, CA                                    
Julia Fuentes, Tucson, AZ
Faith Kandel Yesner, Philadelphia, PA
Sandra Gotlieb Willett, Fredericksburg, VA
Lauren K Masseron, Baltmore, MD
Alyson Carroll Earnest, Carlsbad, CA
Kelly Eagan Ballard, Durango, CO
Suzannah Nelson, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Deb Schenck, Wichita, KS
Jen Haken, Blewbury, UK
Mary Beth Irwin,Ridgefield, CT
Veronica Luccioni, London, UK
Karen Berner, Tampa, FL
Anne Birckelbow, Linden, MI
Rob Smith, Camden County, NJ
Angela Thomason Webb
Bridget Whitlow
Sheryl Sitman, Israel 
Penny Lawrence, Merced, CA
Diane Koplar Vaccariello, Homosassa, Florida
Gabriele Pfister Matthewman, Godalming, Surrey, UK and Alexandria, VA
Fran Warkow, Kansas City, MO
Eve Musby, Glasgow, Scotland
Rhonda Nunnally Brownrigg, West Plains, MO
Mia Elena Lopez Cox, Santa Maria, CA
Carolyn Dower, Austin, TX
Kelli Allen Masri, Corpus Christi TX
Lisa Guimont, Orangeville, Ontario, Canada
Leslie Richmand, Plainsboro, NJ
Sarah Hale Wilcher - Kansas CIty, MO
Melissa Sherman Francis, Middletown, RI

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