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Leading Australian Clinical Psychologist To Serve As Consultant For New Challenge Trust Specialist Eating Disorders Service

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The leading recovery services provider Challenge Trust has engaged Chris Thornton, one of Australia's leading clinical psychologists in the treatment and research of eating disorders, to consult to the urgently-needed specialist eating disorders service it is launching in September.

In July the Auckland District Health Board and Challenge Trust signed a three-year, $8 million contract for the recovery services organization to establish a day clinic and residential treatment facility to serve the Northern and Midland regions. Previously, the lack of intensive treatment options in this part of New Zealand has required the ADHB to fund and allocate residential and day programme treatment to facilities in Australia.

Challenge Trust is now building a 'dream team' of ED-experienced specialists and other health care professionals to staff the facility, including a staff psychiatrist, three psychologists, a charge nurse and team of nine registered nurses, a dietician, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and complement of residential support workers.

In addition, the organization will be seeking corporate and community support for the service in both the short- and long-term.

Advising the team as consultant clinical psychologist will be Mr Thornton, who is the current President of the Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders. He is well-known for his advanced work in the field of eating disorders, has published his research in leading scientific journals, and conducts workshops nationally and internationally on the treatment of eating disorders.

Of the Challenge Trust service, Mr Thornton says, "An intensive treatment environment such as this has been needed in the upper North Island region for many years, with the Auckland DHBs previously having to fund the treatment of the most unwell patients in Australia. It is far from ideal to treat patients outside their home countries because of the need to involve families and reintegrate recovering patients into their normal home and social environments.

"A specialist treatment setting which offers both in-patient and day services is required to complement the existing outpatient treatment provided by the ABHB Regional Eating Disorders Service. Current international research and practice indicates that there is a need for a continuum of care encompassing inpatient, day patient and outpatient treatment.

"Having a variety of treatment programmes, including family-based therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy, achieves the best results for sufferers. Eating disorders are serious psychiatric illnesses, and in order to recover, patients need to receive highly specialized care in a setting that is appropriate for their needs."

The funding will provide an initial nine beds for inpatients and 20 places for day patients. In addition, services will be available to private patients at a considerably lower cost than for the overseas treatment many sufferers and families have previously had to seek.

The service will treat patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, as well as patients presenting with symptoms of anorexia and/or bulimia who do not meet the full clinical criteria.

The prevalence of anorexia and bulimia in New Zealand is consistent with Australia and other developed nations, where anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among young females, after obesity and asthma. Between 0.5% and 1% of females aged 15 to 19 (the most at-risk group) have anorexia, which has a mortality rate of 20%, the highest of any psychiatric illness. Between 1.1% and 4.2% of adolescent and young adult women meet the criteria for bulimia nervosa.

The average age of onset for anorexia is in the mid-teens, but this is dropping as younger people present with symptoms; it is being diagnosed in girls as young as eight.

Clive Plucknett, CEO of Challenge Trust, says, "Eating disorders are insidious conditions that have the potential to destroy the lives of people and their families. Challenge Trust is proud to partner with ADHB in providing the best possible service and make a real difference in the lives of people these conditions affect."

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