Remember when smoking was the normal thing to do?
Remember back in the 1950’s when the media glamorized cigarettes, and smoking was the normal thing to do? Fast-forward to today’s culture:
–Smoking is banned in restaurants and public places
–Smokers feel ashamed of indulging in this health-harmful habit
–Teens cannot legally buy cigarettes.
Times have changed!
Given that 30 million Americans will struggle with eating disorders in their lifetimes, the same kind of societal changes need to happen so we can prevent eating disorders from ruining people’s lives in the first place. How can we we make that happen?
A review of the current eating disorders literature identifies at least 100 interventions that help prevent eating disorders. These studies focus on improving self-esteem, improving body acceptance, and teaching media literacy. While this information is good, we now really need to focus on a bigger view and expand those findings to focus on healthcare policy and laws. The goal is to change beauty ideals, cultural values and media’s messages.
Speaking at the Multi-service Eating Disorders Association’s (www.MEDAInc.org) Annual Conference (March, 2017), Bryn Austin ScD of the Harvard T.H. Chang School of Public Health suggested that we need “Strategic Science.” That is, we need researchers to design studies that generate findings that can be used by policymakers and communities. For example, strategic scientists could study whether the cost of recovering from an eating disorder is more than the cost of preventing it in the first place, and then use that information to influence policy makers.
Could we create legislation on the state and local level, if not the national level, to:
— Ban the sale of diet pills to teens?
— Stop advertisements for fraudulent weight loss products?
— Stop coercing models to get down to size zero to even get considered for a job?
— Add the label “photo-shopped” to ads with unrealistically thin models?
The Harvard T.H. Chang School of Public Health, in conjunction with Boston Childrens Hospital, has created the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED; www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped; @HarvardSTRIPED). The goal of STRIPED is to bring together scientists, policy makers and community advocates to prevent eating disorders on a large scale. Preventing eating disorders would prevent undue suffering and healthcare expenses (and other costs) to individuals, families, and society—to say nothing of saving lives.
How many years need to pass before we will be able to say “Remember when women thought it was normal to hate their bodies?”