Eating disorders in adolescents: Principles of diagnosis and treatment

Barriers to care

Interdisciplinary treatment of eating disorders can be time-consuming, relatively prolonged and extremely costly. Lack of access to appropriate interdisciplinary teams or insufficient treatment can result in chronicity, social or psychiatric morbidity, and even death. Some provincial plans limit access to private care resources such as nutrition visits or mental health visits. Absent or low reimbursement rates for psychosocial services results in fewer qualified persons being willing to care for teenagers and young adults with eating disorders.

Some older adolescents are no longer eligible for treatment or coverage because of provincial medical insurance rules. Thus, withdrawal from treatment can occur at an age when leaving home, unemployment or temporary employment is the norm. Some institutions have age limit policies that negatively affect treatment and limit access to care during the transition from paediatric to adult care.

Legislation should provide reimbursement for intervention by multiple disciplines for adolescents with eating disorders. Coverage should ensure that for adolescents, treatment should be dictated by the severity and range of the clinical situation. The promotion of size acceptance and healthy lifestyles, introduction of prevention programs for high risk adolescents, and strategies for early diagnosis and intervention should be encouraged.

Position: Health care reforms should include provisions that address the needs of adolescents with eating disorders and ensure that they not be denied access to care because of absent or inadequate health care coverage.


Adolescent Medicine Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS)

Paediatr Child Health 1998;3(3):189-92
Reference No. AM96-04


Reaffirmed January 2011


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This position statement was adapted by the CPS Adolescent Medicine Committee from a paper by the Society for Adolescent Medicine. It represents a modification of the version published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (1995;16:476-480). We appreciate the permission of the authors, the Journal of Adolescent Health and the Society for Adolescent Medicine to adapt the manuscript to the Canadian context.

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