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13 June 2017

App launches to aid early intervention in eating disorders

An app has been launched in Wales which aims to bridge a knowledge gap and provide information to enable preventative and early intervention for those suspected of having an eating disorder, which will help increase the chances of individual recovery.

The evidence-based Diet or Disorder? App is a collaboration between Swansea University and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, with substantial input from the Tier 3 Adult Eating Disorders Service, sufferers, carers and the third sector, with advice from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Network (CAHMS), public health, education and primary healthcare professionals. It is free for android, smartphone and tablet users.

The app provides tools to support and empower those who might have an eating disorder and well as their loved ones. Providing a host of information in a portable format, the app gives psychoeducation about eating disorders, including decisional tools to help identify an eating problem. It also signposts to the available support in Wales, simple self-help strategies and links to other resources.

Gofal had been involved in an advisory capacity from an early stage in the development of the app and supported the developers in formally launching 'Diet or Disorder?' at an event at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay where the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport Vaughan Gething AM and Chair of the Cross Party Group on Eating Disorders Bethan Jenkins AM spoke. The event was attended by NHS professionals, service users and third sector representatives.

The Diet or Disorder? app has been designed and tested by both experts by experience and members of the public who are not familiar with eating disorders, as well as primary care health professionals. The App aims to provide evidence based information based on the NICE, Welsh Eating Disorder Framework and adult and paediatric MARSIPAN (Management of Really Sick Patients with Anorexia Nervosa) guidelines. It has been funded by the AgorIP programme with money from the Welsh Government.

Jacinta Tan, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Swansea University, led the development of the app and said:

“There are currently 1.6 million people in the UK who are directly affected by eating disorders and the healthcare costs to the NHS is between £3.9 and £4.6 billion each year. Eating disorders are serious and have the highest mortality rates of any mental disorder and that’s because only a minority of people receive the help needed from specialist or general mental health services.

“Evidence has shown that eating disorders usually begin in adolescence and young adulthood and early identification and intervention is vital as recovery is less likely if remained untreated for over three years. This app aims to get straight to those who need it most with the benefits derived from such early intervention.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, Vaughan Gething said:

“I’m pleased to be launching the new app today, it is an important resource for young people who are worried about themselves, their friends and loved ones, and are unsure where to go for advice.

“The app is another important tool in our arsenal in battling eating disorders and ensuring many more people can recover and live fulfilling lives. As technology in life becomes ever more present, it is refreshing to see professional and helpful advice readily available in a digital form.”

Gerrard McCullagh, Clinical Lead for Tier 3 Eating Disorder Service at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and Powys Teaching Health Board and Professor Alka Ahuja, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board were also involved in developing the App. Gerrard added:

“We are delighted that we have been able to develop this app and it is now available, not only to people in Wales, but also to others across the UK. As the app is evidence-based, it has involved a great deal of collaboration to ensure that it is fit for purpose and we are very hopeful it will help more people suffering from an eating disorder to help themselves or get help earlier.

“The app is helping to fill the gap and empowers the public to help themselves, as well as preventing delays in identifying and treating eating disorders before they become severe.

“The app is helping to fill the gap and empower the public to help themselves, as well as to prevent delays in identifying and treating eating disorders before they become severe and is in line with the principles of Prudent Healthcare and likely to be cost-effective.”

The app will be evaluated on its uptake, effectiveness, and impact, with the development team also seeking to develop further apps for use within the mental health field.

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