By Daisy Wu, Hong Kong Eating Disorders Association, Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a well-developed city which provides relatively well developed healthcare system to guard the basic needs of citizen. The recurrent expenditure on medical and health in 2016-17 is $57 billion, accounting for 16.5 per cent of the recurrent government expenditure. The budget allocated mainly targets to cope with the aging population and other severe medical needs. The pressing needs for mental health service has not been given a priority. Little resources have been put on improving the well-being of patients with mental illness, for example eating disorders. As a result, the gap in services is still a major issue faced by local eating disorders patients.
Out-patient Support Priority
According to foreign figures, the growing trend of eating disorders, especially among youngsters, is indeed alarming (Herpertz-Dahlmann, 2015). However, our government did not give weight to provide adequate services and support to local ED patients. There is even no official statistics regarding the prevalence of eating disorders in-patients in Hong Kong. Apart from the existing in-patient services provided to ED patients, with specialized medical team in psychiatric wards customize treatment plans for patients, we would like to advocate the government to allocate more resources to develop out-patient services to ED patients. It is the improvement we want to see implemented most of all, as this can help patients more comprehensively.
Biological Factors Underscores Severity
On the other hand, Hong Kong people in general have relatively low awareness of eating disorders. We have also encountered many people with misunderstandings about eating disorders and ED patients when we held community exhibitions and school exhibitions. The general public tends to put the blame on ED patients, holding the stigma that “To eat or not to eat, it is just a matter of choice”, and therefore patients are only asking for troubles. However, recent researches revealed that biological factors such as hormones contribute to eating disorders (Culbert, Racine& Klump, 2015). This underscores the severity of EDs by highlighting their biological underpinnings which ED patients face the problem out of their control.
One of the service goals of our association is to provide and assist ED patients and caregivers in seeking appropriate treatment. In the past 5 years, we have provided services to more than 700 patients (HEDA, 2016). Apart from our association, patients can only find counseling services that are specialized for ED patients in a few other centers or organizations. In addition, we are the only NGO in Hong Kong that provides supportive services to ED caregivers. However, as a self-help organization without regular subvention from government, we could only provide limited services to patients and caregivers.
“Love Yourself, Love Your Body”
Aside from providing services to patients and caregivers, we also put effort on enhancing public awareness and knowledge of eating disorders, particularly amongst adolescents. Therefore we have launched a project called “Love Yourself, Love Your Body” Community Education Project since late 2013, and the response was very positive and encouraging indeed. The project consists of three programs including volunteer training, school exhibition, and community exhibition. We have trained students to be our Health Ambassadors, designing game booths in their schools, as well as spreading the message of positive body image to friends and family members around them.
By holding community exhibitions, we have helped the public to understand struggles faced by patients in the psychosocial aspect, as well as reduced their misunderstandings of eating disorders and raised the degree of acceptance towards ED patients. Indeed there are more researches emphasizing the biological contribution to eating disorders (Farrell, Lee & Deacon, 2015), therefore we would like to use this perspective to reduce the stigma towards ED patients as well as raise public’s understanding and acceptance to ED patients in the future.
World Eating Disorders Action Day, June 2
Raising public’s understanding of eating disorder is never easy to be achieved, and we believe that we cannot work alone without cooperation with other parties. Therefore, this year we have joined the World Eating Disorders Action Day, cooperating with activists and organizations around the globe. To celebrate and commemorate the inaugural #WeDoAct on June 2, we will have a series of promotion on different social media platforms, including facebook and Instagram. To match with the theme of Action Day, we will also hold some community exhibitions in the coming three months. It is our deepest hope that through these activities, we could promote the awareness of eating disorders and understanding of ED patients.
HEDA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/setyourbodyfree/
HEDA Website: www.heda-hk.org
Culbert, K. M., Racine, S. E., & Klump, K. L. (2015). Research Review: What we have earned about the causes of eating disorders–a synthesis of sociocultural, psychological, and biological research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(11), 1141-1164.
Farrell, N. R., Lee, A. A., & Deacon, B. J. (2015). Biological or psychological? Effects of eating disorder psychoeducation on self-blame and recovery expectations among symptomatic individuals. Behaviour research and therapy, 74, 32-37.
Herpertz-Dahlmann, B. (2015). Adolescent eating disorders: update on definitions, symptomatology, epidemiology, and comorbidity. Child and adolescentpsychiatric clinics of North America, 24(1), 177-196.
Hong Kong Eating Disorders Association. (2016). Local Trend of Eating Disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.heda- hk.org/index.php?lang=en&option=com_content&view=article&id=57&p=113
Join Daisy and HEDA in supporting World Eating Disorders Action Day. Be sure to follow along on Twitter @WorldEDDay and hashtag #WeDoAct, #WorldEDActionDay, @WorldEatingDisordersAction on Instagram and World Eating Disorders Action Day on Facebook.