One of the things you hear a lot these days--at least if you spend any time talking to doctors about eating disorders--is that they affect a relatively small number of kids. Prevalence rates for anorexia are usually quoted as .5 to 1 percent, and 3 to 6 percent for bulimia. (Binge eating disorder is a newer diagnosis; I've heard 3 percent for BED but don't know if it's accurate.) Which somehow makes them less worthy of attention, concern, and research money than, say, childhood obesity, which as we all know is public healthy enemy #1. (That's sarcasm, y'all.)
But a new study out of University of Texas at Austin shows that fully 12 percent of all adolescents experience some form of eating disorder. That's 12 out of 100. Which may not sound like much.
But consider that 1 out of 15,000 kids gets cancer of some kind, and think about the attention and research and money devoted to understanding and treating childhood cancers. Then think again about the number: 12 percent.
It sounds a lot bigger now.
One of the pervasive problems in treating eating disorders is a lack of effective treatments. We need more research, which needs we need more research dollars. One reason we don't get those dollars is that families are often reluctant to acknowledge that their child has an eating disorder because of the stigma associated with these illnesses.
Cancer used to carry a lot of stigma, too. As a culture we've mostly gotten over that. How about we start challenging the stereotypes around eating disorders? Parents could be amazing advocates, if only we were willing to stand up and say, "Yes, my child is one of the 12 percent--now what are we going to do about it?"
How about it?