A dietician who has opened a multidisciplinary eating disorders clinic in regional NSW is seeing more people diagnosed with eating disorders in Dubbo.
Having worked in eating disorder treatment for almost five years, Ms Barnett has noticed an increase in recognition and appropriate diagnosis of eating disorders.
In her experience from talking to clients, many have suffered in silence for years, with a vast majority not being aware their eating behaviours were disordered.
But thanks to increasing awareness around dieting, weight stigma and body image - including the awarding of Australian of the Year to body image activist Taryn Brumfitt - dieting and eating disorders have started to become recognised as not so much a weight problem, but a significant mental health disorder with complex trauma as a major driver.
"The COVID pandemic did see a surge in eating disorders, and in recent months, financial pressures have again put added stress on families," Ms Barnett told the Daily Liberal.
"Accessing treatment for many people is not only costly, but also time consuming, impacting on the ability to attend work."
Nonetheless, there are avenues to access care, and Ms Barnett is keen to help those struggling with an eating disorder know what might be available to them.
In 2017, she was awarded a Health Education and Training (HETI) rural placement scholarship after pitching her idea to establish a multidisciplinary eating disorders practice for regional patients.
Although her dream still has a way to go, Dubbo Health Hub is reportedly growing and expanding with "a high demand for services".
The clinic has two GPs, as well as a specialist perinatal psychologist. The Hub provides coordinated multidisciplinary care across all chronic diseases, not just eating disorders.
The team is currently looking for GPs and Allied Health providers to join them.
Ms Barnett said too few patients were aware of the Australian Government's Eating Disorder Plan (EDP), released in 2019 to make eating disorder support more accessible.
She said many practitioners also weren't knowledgeable about the EDP, which was a concern because patients' first port of call was their GP who needed to instigate the plan.
"For practitioners working in the field, these changes were a big step forward, and for those who have been able to access care under an EDP, treatment has been easier and more affordable than ever before," Ms Barnett said.
"The unveiling of the EDPs also paved the way for a major up-skilling of the eating disorder workforce, with many major initiatives in training for dietitians, psychologists and general practitioners being rolled out every year since 2019."
Ms Barnett said COVID-19 could have eclipsed news of the EDP roll-out.
"This resulted in many GPs and primary healthcare networks having to adjust rapidly to a changing medical landscape, with the unfortunate consequence that many medical professionals and their patients are unaware of the support available via an EDP," she said.
IN OTHER NEWS
Under an EDP, an eligible person can access - in a 12-month period - 20 Medicare-subsidised sessions to a dietitian, and 40 Medicare-subsidised sessions to a psychologist. This is four times more sessions than is available through the usual Allied Health Chronic Disease Management Plan, or the Mental Health Care Plan.
Patients usually visit their GP for an EDP, as formal diagnosis can only be made by a medical professional. EDPs can also be provided by a psychiatrist or paediatrician.
For more information go to: https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorder-resources/medicare-items/ed-treatment-and-mangement-plans/
The medicare safety net is another Federal Government incentive, brought in to ease the cost of medical care. Medicare safety nets give you extra support if you have high out-of-pocket medical costs. Find out more at https://www.health.gov.au/topics/medicare/about/safety-nets
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