InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders thanked the Federal Government yesterday (Sunday, December 9, 2018) for its $4 million commitment over the ensuing 3.5 years for development of the nation’s first research and translation hub for eating disorders.

Yesterday’s announcement marks an historical turning point for the more than one million Australians living with eating disorders. 

In its landmark announcement yesterday, the Federal Government further committed to an estimated $111 million reform of the Medicare system to align with the research for the treatment of eating disorders. A specific item number will be created for eating disorders, increasing the number of rebated psychological sessions from 10 up to 40 in any calendar year, under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), and rebated dietetic sessions up to 20 in any given year.

According to InsideOut Director, Dr Sarah Maguire, who sat on the eating disorder working group advising the Medicare Review Tribunal, yesterday’s announcements mark a historic turning point for Australians living with eating disorders, their families and loved ones.

“The tragedy and devastation of an eating disorder on a person’s life, and their respective family, is significant. When they are then forced to confront a health system that is under-resourced and unresponsive, their devastation is further magnified, their progression to serious illness almost guaranteed, and their risk of mortality, multiplied.

“These announcements will have a direct and tangible effect on Australian lives, will reduce chronic illness, reduce burden and reduce deaths,” Dr Maguire said.

Prime Minister, The Hon. Scott Morrison MP in his announcement yesterday said “One of the things we have to do, is raise the level of awareness about this [eating disorders], and the understanding that it is real. It is real.

“We are pleased to do our bit, to step up and do our part. It is our commitment,” said Mr Morrison.

“I’m so glad that Greg has seized upon this and made it happen.”Federal Health Minister, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP echoed Mr Morrison’s remarks, citing “Today is about saving lives and protecting lives.

“This is the day Australia says, we hear, we get it, and it will never be the same again,” Mr Hunt said.

Three-time Olympian and InsideOut Ambassador who lived with an eating disorder for many years, Jana Pittman, Sydney spoke at the announcement yesterday about the lack of treatment options available to her during her illness.

“My main concern is that no one else has to endure what I endured, living with an illness that was stigmatised, hidden, shameful and with very few available treatment options that I could see or find.

“We praise the Federal Government for taking meaningful steps towards improving outcomes for the more than one million Australians currently living with an eating disorder,” said Ms Pittman.

“The Government’s funding commitment today demonstrates that eating disorders are being recognised as severe and life-threatening illnesses, on a par with other serious mental and physical illnesses. The commitment legitimises an illness group that has simply not had legitimacy, up until now.”

“Yesterday’s funding announcement for InsideOut – Australia’s national research and translation institute for eating disorders – marks the first time that eating disorders have been identified as a priority for national research funding. Together with the Million Minds announcement for eating disorders as a priority area, this opens enormous possibilities for what we can develop for Australians living with these illnesses, and those who support them,” Dr Maguire said.

“We cannot change what people and families receive, and prevent unnecessary deaths, unless we are forward thinking, continuing to research and innovate. That is why a national institute for research and translation supported by the government, is essential.

“There has been chronic under-funding into this area, in both research and its translation, to date. Yesterday’s funding support for InsideOut will help to rectify that research and clinical translation gap,” said Dr Maguire.

The funding will be allocated to the development of research infrastructure and clinical translation capacity, including a national strategy for research and translation into eating disorders.

InsideOut Institute was launched in March this year at a physical event held at Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, attended by Minister Hunt, and NSW Minister for Mental Health, The Hon. Tanya Davies MP.  The Institute is supported in partnership between Sydney Local health District and the University of Sydney.

“InsideOut has multiple, innovative research projects underway. We are looking for the genes that cause anorexia nervosa, we are trialing e-therapies and searching for innovative neurobiological treatments. We are also conducting much-needed health system research to determine how best to translate evidence into everyday practice by clinicians throughout the health services,” Dr Maguire said.

“We want to expand and expedite our efforts into finding and delivering treatments that work. There is so much more to be done.”

About eating disorders

There are four main types of eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED). Eating disorders have multiple causes, including genetics, developmental challenges (including puberty or loss), thinking styles (such as perfectionism), body dissatisfaction (body image has ranked among the top three concerns for young people over the past nine years), and socio-cultural purposes.

One in 20 Australians is living with an eating disorder. Eating disorders not only affect girls and young women. Eating disorders can affect anyone, from any gender, or cultural background. Eating disorders among men are significantly under-diagnosed.

Eating disorders can commence at almost any age, but most commonly in adolescence. Medical complications of eating disorders include cognitive impairment, heart complications, growth retardation and osteoporosis.

The isolating and tormenting nature of eating disorders can lead to depression, anxiety and suicide; eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of all mental illnesses.