What can be done to address eating disorders?

The World
A model presents a creation by French designer Lea Peckre as part of her Spring/Summer 2015 women's ready-to-wear collection during Paris Fashion Week September 23, 2014.

Models who want to work in France must present a doctor's note attesting to their overall health and proving a BMI of 18 or over. In the US, no such law exists. Should it?

Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

More than 30 million Americans — women and men, children and adults — grapple with eating disorders.

These complex illnesses, which include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, severely undermine health and cost lives. Hosted by The World's Carol Hills, The Forum at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health hosted a live panel discussion Tuesday, September 20, 2016, that explored the many dimensions to eating disorders, including their biological bases, risk factors and treatment options.

What role does body image play, and how do industries, such as fashion and advertising, often promulgate unrealistic societal standards of beauty? How might women and girls, in particular, be affected by such pressure?

And what’s to be done?

For example, would enacting legislation that requires minimum BMIs for models, or requiring disclosures of digitally altered ads, help? This panel will include expertise in psychiatry, children’s health, policy and eating disorders prevention.

You can continue the discussion by tweeting with the hashtag #eatingdisorders.

Some information about the panelists:

  • S. Bryn Austin: Professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; and Director, STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders)
  • Alison Field: Chair, Department of Epidemiology, Brown University
  • Claire Mysko: Chief Executive Officer, The National Eating Disorders Association 
  • Thomas Weigel: Psychiatrist and Associate Medical Director, Klarman Eating Disorders Center, McLean Hospital