Date Published: 5 March 2009
Eating disorders pioneer appointed to National Advisory Group
A clinical professor from The University of Western Australia who, with a team of local health professionals, has pioneered many successful approaches to treating eating disorders, has been named a member of a new National Advisory Group on Body Image set up by the Minister for Youth Kate Ellis this week.
Professor David Forbes of UWA's School of Paediatrics and Child Health established an eating disorders clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in 1996 with another clinical academic. The clinic boasts one of the country's best performing and longest-lasting multi-disciplinary programs tackling eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia. Professor Forbes has also been involved in health policy and guideline development.
Disturbed body image (DBI) had important implications for adolescent mental health, manifested in eating disorders as well as in obesity, self-harm and suicide, he said. If DBI continued past adolescence, it could cause severe physical and psychological disability, such as chronic malnourishment, and osteoporosis, poor self esteem, anxiety and depression.
The Advisory Group will be chaired by former magazine editor Mia Freedman and members include model and media identity Sarah Murdoch, Girlfriend magazine editor Sarah Cornish, founder of the Butterfly Foundation, Claire Vickery and body image researcher Susan Paxton.
Mission Australia's National Survey of Young Australians in 2008 found that body image was one of the top three concerns for young Australians aged between 11 and 24.
There is also evidence that body dissatisfaction is approaching epidemic proportions among young Australians, with seven out of 10 high school girls consistently choosing an ideal figure that is thinner than their own, and only 16 per cent of young women saying they are happy with their body weight. Boys and young men are also affected - approximately one in 10 patients being seen at the Princess Margaret Hospital Eating Disorders program are boys.
"The Group will look at strategies for addressing problems of body image in society," Professor Forbes said. "These will include increasing the media literacy of boys and girls so they are more sceptical of the images portrayed and developing codes for media and the fashion industry."