Despite widespread attention in the 1980s and 1990s, eating disorder rates have not changed, according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). Not limited to young women and girls, eating disorders plague males and females of all ages. NEDA surveys revealed that during in their lifetimes, 0.9% of women and 0.3% of men had anorexia, 1.5% of women and 0.5% of men had bulimia, and 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men had clinical binge eating disorder. The statistics indicate, however, that younger women have the highest problem rates. At any point in time from the ages of 12 to 20, 5.2% of the women surveyed met the medical criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. By the age of 20, 13.2% of those surveyed had suffered a clinical eating disorder.

The NEDA recently awarded a University of Kansas research team $50,00 to develop a smartphone app for clinical use with eating disorder treatment.  According to team leader Kelsie Forbush, KU Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology, 50 to 60% of patients are not responsive to current eating disorder treatments. Most treatments suffer from clinician time demands. Regardless of current patient monitoring or other reporting, clinicians lack time to track, analyze, and interpret treatment outcomes.The smartphone app is patient-focused, based on treatment outcomes; patients give answers to a series of questions. The app then interprets these answers and reports contemporaneous outcomes to the clinicians, including alerts if a patient is in danger of a poor outcome.

The KU team will use the NEDA grant to test the app in several eating-disorder treatment settings in the Greater Kansas City area. The hope is that with real-time treatment outcome data, the therapist will be better prepared to identify patients who need treatment adjustments than with current data tracking and monitoring practices.