Screening High School Students for Eating Disorders: Results of a National Initiative
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Screening High School Students for Eating Disorders: Results of a National Initiative

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      Prev Chronic Dis
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      Early identification and treatment of disordered eating and weight control behaviors may prevent progression and reduce the risk of chronic health consequences.


      The National Eating Disorders Screening Program coordinated the first-ever nationwide eating disorders screening initiative for high schools in the United States in 2000. Students completed a self-report screening questionnaire that included the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) and items on vomiting or exercising to control weight, binge eating, and history of treatment for eating disorders. Multivariate regression analyses examined sex and racial/ethnic differences.


      Almost 15% of girls and 4% of boys scored at or above the threshold of 20 on the EAT-26, which indicated a possible eating disorder. Among girls, we observed few significant differences between ethnic groups in eating disorder symptoms, whereas among boys, more African American, American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Latino boys reported symptoms than did white boys. Overall, 25% of girls and 11% of boys reported disordered eating and weight control symptoms severe enough to warrant clinical evaluation. Of these symptomatic students, few reported that they had ever received treatment.


      Population screening for eating disorders in high schools may identify at-risk students who would benefit from early intervention, which could prevent acute and long-term complications of disordered eating and weight control behaviors.

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