Recognizing National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Why Early Intervention for Eating Disorders is Essential

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Posted: February 23, 2016 on thNEDA Blog

Treatment works best when delivered early.

Research on treatments for eating disorders, as well as most mental health problems in general, indicates that early identification and treatment improves the speed of recovery, reduces symptoms to a greater extent and improves the likelihood of staying free of the illness. For example, when adolescents with anorexia nervosa are given family-based treatment within the first three years of the illness onset they have a much greater likelihood of recovery (Lock, Agras, Bryson, & Kraemer, 2005; Loeb et al., 2007; Russell, George, Dare, & Eisler, 1987; Treasure & Russell, 2011).

Early intervention helps prevent serious psychological and health consequences.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health illness. Eating disorders are unique among mental health disorders in that they manifest in physical health complications, which can lead to serious and life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, organ failure and even death if not treated. Anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. Young women who suffer from this illness have a mortality rate that is 12 times higher than average, making it the mental health illness with the highest premature mortality rate. If left untreated, eating disorders tend to become more severe and less receptive to treatment (Becker, Franko, Nussbaum, & Herzog, 2004; Fichter, Quadflieg, & Hedlund, 2006).  

It is important to acknowledge that developing an eating disorder is not a conscious choice. People suffering from eating disorders often do not understand the severity of their illness and are thus reluctant to seek help. It is critical to pursue early intervention strategies, such as education and screening, to prevent chronic malnutrition, long-term health complications and death. In other words, detecting and treating eating disorders as soon as possible has the potential to save lives.

In many cases, eating disorders can be prevented.

One of the biggest sparks of hope in eating disorders research is that some eating disorders can be prevented through in-person and online programs. Two examples of programs that have been shown to prevent eating disorder onset in at-risk groups are The Body Project and Healthy Body Image Program (StudentBodies).  

Widespread screening improves access to early intervention.  

Early interventions should start with education and screening . Screening is not intended to be diagnostic, but rather, to help identify individuals who are at-risk for or may be experiencing eating disorders and to provide information about appropriate resources. Diagnosis of an eating disorder should be done by a mental health professional, and ideally, an eating disorders specialist. This is important because treatment for eating disorders should involve a medical professional (e.g., primary care physician, family medicine, adolescent medicine specialist or pediatrician)—and ideally also one who specializes in eating disorders.  

Eating disorders screening is important across multiple settings: middle and high schools, colleges and universities, pediatrics and primary care and within employee wellness programs (just to name a few).  

The majority of eating disorders develop during adolescence and young adulthood, making screening during this period particularly critical for early intervention. Much research has focused on college students; college campuses are an ideal avenue to maximize prevention and test treatment approaches, as they are an environment conducive to spreading information quickly through a surplus of channels. The typical onset period for eating disorders coincides with early college ages, and studies have identified a wide treatment gap on college campuses: 80% of students with clinically significant symptoms do not receive care (Eisenberg et al., 2011). Students with subclinical symptoms are even less likely to seek help, which evolves into more serious disordered eating, a poorer prognosis and an increased chance of relapse (Yager et al., 2006). Tactics to encourage people to seek help have typically focused on minimizing stigma, improving knowledge and access and addressing other barriers emphasized by traditional theories of health behavior (Biddle, Donovan, Sharp, & Gunnell, 2007). However, the majority of students with ED symptoms report not seeking help for other reasons such as a lack of time, lack of recognition and a desire to deal with the issue “on my own” (Lipson et al. in press). Therefore, research suggests that early intervention strategies should focus on initiatives that educate and engage students about the severity of EDs by providing convenient, relevant and action-oriented options. (Check out more information on NEDA’s college campus initiative, Proud2Bme On Campus.)

Online, campus-wide screenings upon college enrollment is one strategy to reach students who are unaware of the severity of the illness and/or those who wish to handle the disease independently. These screenings serve as a gateway for students to learn more about eating disorders, and also as a means to get the best treatment associated with their level of risk. Connecting eating disorder screening to specific resources tailored to the individual’s needs improves access to care and facilitates early intervention.

Eliminating stigma and raising awareness are important measures to initiate conversations, encourage further research development and influence prevention policies. However, early detection and screening may have the most significant life-saving impact. We should collectively focus our efforts to promote online screening tools that touch as many potentially at-risk people as possible to build a road to recovery.  


Press Release: Lantern raises $17M to provide accessible online mental health wellness services; partners with healthcare leader UPMC

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Funding represents the largest round yet in the emerging digital mental health wellness space

February 9th, 2016 San Francisco, CA Lantern, the leader in evidence-based online mental health wellness services, today announced the close of a $17 million investment led by Pittsburgh-based healthcare giant UPMC. The investment reflects a commitment from Lantern and UPMC to transform the way emotional wellbeing services are delivered and accessed in the US. UPMC was joined by all previous Lantern investors, including Mayfield Fund, SoftTech Venture Capital and Stanford University.

As a leading mental health wellness provider and researcher, UPMC will partner with Lantern to leverage its platform within a myriad of clinical settings and conditions.

“We are excited about reaching more people with mental health issues through this readily accessible, scalable, and cost-effective platform,” said Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization arm of UPMC, which spearheaded this investment. “This partnership is an excellent example of our mission at UPMC Enterprises: finding creative solutions and technologies to solve some of the most challenging problems in health care.”

UPMC, one of the largest integrated healthcare provider/insurers in the US, is “the ideal partner,” said Foung. “UPMC has a unique view into the continuum of care, from insuring more than 2.8 million individuals, to administering care preventatively and when patients need it most through its more than 20 hospitals and 3,500 employed physicians,” said Alejandro Foung, Lantern Co-Founder and CEO. “A large part of UPMC’s appeal to Lantern is its focus on disease prevention, a sharp contrast to the fee-for-service model that currently dominates the behavioral health landscape. Because of our shared focus on prevention to solve health challenges before they even arise or manifest, Lantern and UPMC are the perfect match,” said Foung.

Behavioral health problems are among the most pressing health issues facing the country, affecting more than 18 percent of adults. Depression and anxiety disorders are among the top five drivers of medical costs in primary care settings—and are even more common and costly among those with chronic medical conditions. Given the shortage of mental health workers, two-thirds of primary care physicians report difficulty referring patients to behavioral health services.

UPMC clinicians will work with Lantern on pilots aimed at expanding its programs to additional behavioral health issues and potentially to populations of patients with more complex conditions. “Integrating behavioral health into broader medical care and focusing on prevention for large groups of patients is the only way that we can deliver high-quality, cost-effective mental healthcare,” said Eva Szigethy, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, pediatrics, and medicine at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who will be working closely with the Lantern team.

ABOUT LANTERN

Founded in 2012 in San Francisco, we’re a team of researchers, technologists, and clinicians translating clinical research and expertise into simple, effective web and mobile programs based in cognitive behavioral therapy. For more information visit: www.golantern.com.

ABOUT UPMC

The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates 60,000 employees, more than 20 hospitals, more than 500 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, a health insurance division, and international and commercial operations. Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC ranks No. 13 in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals. Building on UPMC’s 20-year track record of successful commercialization activity, UPMC Enterprises is dedicated to creating exceptional healthcare innovations that will have a measurable impact on the cost and quality of care. By partnering with innovators like Lantern, UPMC Enterprises is focused on creating and commercializing solutions in four key areas: clinical tools that will transform the delivery of care, population health management that will be essential in health care’s move from volume to value, consumer-centric healthcare, and business services that improve efficiency.


Introducing Your Path–A new design for your program

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1.pathMaking it all the way through your Lantern sessions is the best way to make real and sustained progress toward emotional wellbeing. That’s why we’re excited to introduce a new design for your Lantern homepage–Your Path–which makes interacting with your sessions clearer and more engaging. The new design can be seen on the web or your iPhone app.

Your Path makes everything about how to get around in Lantern just a little more clear. You’ll see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going in the future.

 

 

 

Where you’ve been2.Past_sessions

The sessions you do each day are circles on your path. Each day you finish a session, you’ll get a little check mark to show that you’ve completed that session.

You can return to the content in your completed sessions any time by clicking on the circle for that session. Not sure which session your favorite techniques was in? No problem. All of your techniques can still be found in the Techniques section of Lantern.

 

 

 

Where you are3.Current_session

So you never feel lost on the winding road of your path, we’ve made it extra clear where to go to start your session each day.

We’re even letting you know up front how long your session should take so you know what to expect.

And, once you’ve finished your session for the day, we’re now giving you recommendations to practice one of the techniques you’ve already learned. Because, as we all know, making new habits takes repetition.

 

 

Where you’re going

While your path may be a winding journey, it is broken up into themed units. We’ve heard from many of our users that they want to know which units are next.  In our new design, you can see the units you’ve done (in color) and the units to come (in grey).

You can expand and collapse units you’ve done by clicking on the bar with the unit name. And, each time you finish a unit, the following unit expands as a preview and reward.

 

 

We’ve also updated the color palette to feature bright, yet soothing shades. Each unit is represented with a different shade—another visually satisfying cue that you’ve moved onto a new unit, and are making progress on your path.

We hope you enjoy making your way through Your Path.

Check it out on the web, or download the iPhone update here.


4 Ways to Combat Holiday Stress

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A surge in festive decorations, homemade treats, and heartwarming made-for-TV movies have cued the holiday cheer at the Lantern office. While the holiday season is an opportunity to reconnect with family and celebrate the end of the year, it’s also a major source of stress for Americans. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, almost a quarter of Americans report feeling “extreme stress” during the holidays.

The financial pressure to buy gifts, wrap up year-end projects at work and stay healthy—amid all of the temptations of sugary treats—can squash a lot of holiday joy. If you have less energy than usual or aren’t motivated to do the things you usually enjoy, you may be experiencing seasonal stress. We put together four ways to reduce the emotional strain of the holidays for our friends at Mango Health. You can read the full post here: Mango Health blog.


Caregiver Stress: 4 Ways to Take Care of Yourself

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This is a guest post by Mango Health for Lantern.

In the past year, about 43.5 million adults in the United States provided unpaid care to an adult or a child according to an AARP research report, and roughly one in five of the people surveyed identified themselves as caregivers. While many of us spend much of our time and energy taking caring of others, we often forget to take care of ourselves.

Taking care of another person, whether it’s a toddler or an aging relative, is no small feat. At Mango Health, we know that keeping up with your own health on top of your caregiving responsibilities can seem quite daunting, so we’ve put together a list of four ways to help you take care of yourself.

Schedule your checkups

When you’re running around all day refilling your father’s prescriptions or scheduling your child’s flu shots, it can be easy to push your own medical concerns aside. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, roughly three out of four caregivers reported that they do not go to the doctor as often as they should, and more than half had missed their own doctors’ appointments.

The financial sacrifices required of unpaid caregivers can also have an impact on their personal health: A survey conducted by The Commonwealth Fund found that female caregivers, compared to non-caregivers, are twice as likely to skip filling a prescription because of the cost.

It can be easier said than done, but try to make your own health routine as much a priority as managing the health of a loved one. Have you been to the doctor recently? If not, get those appointments on the calendar now. And if you aren’t sure what specialist appointments or screening tests you need, contact your general practitioner to find out.

Eat right and exercise

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably spent a lot of time reminding your children to eat their veggies, but make sure that you remember to do the same! A national Evercare study on caregiver health revealed that roughly six out of 10 caregivers reported that their eating and exercising habits had declined since taking on the responsibility of caring for another person.

Whether it’s your son or your mother, looking after someone else can make it difficult to find the time and energy to cook a healthy dinner or squeeze some exercise into your schedule. Try to incorporate exercise throughout your day by going for a walk at lunchtime or doing a 7-minute workout when you get home from work. Studies have shown that these small bursts of activity can be even more beneficial than one long workout.

Mind your mental health

Juggling the responsibilities of a loved one on top of your own can cause a lot of stress. Research on people providing assistance to the elderly or to adults with disabilities consistently shows that caregivers have higher levels of stress, depression, and mental health issues than non-caregivers. A Georgetown University study on family caregiver health found that many caregivers feel unable to handle all of their caregiving responsibilities, and many report feeling anxious, frustrated, and emotionally strained as well.

If you’re feeling low or overwhelmed, take a moment to unwind and do something for yourself. Take a walk outdoors, go to a movie you’ve been wanting to see, or simply spend the afternoon chatting with a friend. It’s important to take a step back make sure that you aren’t forgetting about your own well-being.

Don’t ignore physical or emotional signs of stress or anxiety, but instead learn what triggers your stress with Lantern, a stress and anxiety management app. Lantern teaches you long-term skills to reduce stress, which can ensure you build the emotional resilience you need to manage long-term caregiving.

Reach out for support

You don’t have to face the challenges of looking after someone else’s health alone. There are many resources available from organizations like the National Alliance for Caregiving and Emblem Health. According to an American Journal of Epidemiology study, caring for others can actually improve your health and help you live longer, provided you make sure to care for yourself as well as you care for others.

So don’t be shy to speak up and ask for help, whether from friends, family, or health providers. If you need a hand managing either your health and medications, or those of a loved one, check out Mango Health, a free smartphone app that makes it fun and easy to develop healthy habits.