Training of physicians to diagnose and treat eating disorders is limited in American medical schools, and this lack of education can be a barrier for patients to obtain effective care.
Data from the National Eating Disorder Association indicates that 10 million American women suffer from eating disorders and that 10 to 15% of all Americans have some type of serious eating disorder.
Eating disorders have the highest death rate of all mental illnesses. But the training provided in residency programs to meet the needs of these patients is scarce, according to a study that evaluated more than 600 residency programs.
Evelyn Attia, MD, director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Columbia University Medical Center, and Deborah Glasofer, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical medical psychology at the center, have long paid attention to the widespread lack of nutrition training among college students. medicine, residency programs and general practitioners.
They led a group at Columbia University Medical Center, in partnership with a learning technology company, to develop an eating disorder training course. The course, called preparED, is free and accessible to the public. The Center for Eating Disorders and the New York State Psychiatric Institute have collaborated with eLearning Brothers to develop and launch the course in the summer of 2020. The enthusiastic comments about it so far have been “huge,” Attia and Glasofer said. at Fierce Healthcare.
The program recently received a Bronze Award in the Best Advancement category in the Custom Content category from research and analysis firm Brandon Hall Group.
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This upcoming academic year marks the first time that the course will be integrated into the curricula of several institutions: the Yale School of Medicine, Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbia University. Development of the course was funded by New York State Comprehensive Care Centers for Eating Disorders.
With the infrequent exposure that interns receive to these types of disorders, they may feel inclined to refer patients to specialists, who are not always available to patients or needed, Attia told FierceHealthcare.
Although eating disorder patients are a “complex and large population,” Attia said, even knowing some basic principles is essential to avoiding potentially unnecessary patient referrals. GPs also need to be able to spot undiagnosed eating disorders, as these are often the first point of care for these patients.
With the pandemic and most programs shifting to distance learning, the course, which contains six modules and lasts less than two hours, has become even more relevant and timely, the developers said.
Using custom animations, graphics and short online modules, the courses break down complex and sensitive topics in an engaging and informative way.
Its development, however, has not been without challenges, according to Attia and Glasofer. Several factors had to be taken into account, such as how best to make the course introductory and yet non-elementary, to ensure that it is addressed to a large audience and to the “21st century learner”, whoever. one who prefers information in smaller segments.
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André Chatelain, vice president of custom solutions at eLearning Brothers, noted that during the creation process, the company, which has already developed courses on sensitive topics, not only thought about how best to keep the light topic for users but also how to “improve their empathy towards the people they might treat.”
While the course is based on realistic patient scenarios, the developers also intentionally avoided using real photos of people wherever possible, instead using faceless illustrations and focusing on the story behind each. character.
Since eating disorders affect people of all genders, races, and ages, illustrations aim to reflect this universality in their body types, skin tones, and appearance. In some cases the course shows medical images such as x-rays, but otherwise the real photos are kept to a minimum.
Knowledge checks throughout each module keep the content interactive and give users the opportunity to test their knowledge. So far, developers are measuring the impact of the course by performing pre- and post-completion reviews with users.