Page 473 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 23 March 2022

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Health—eating disorder support services

Ministerial statement

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health and Minister for Mental Health) (10.33): I rise to present the government response to the petition “Starving for Services, Lack of Eating Disorder Services in the ACT”. First, I would like to thank and congratulate the lead petitioner, Kate Steen, on her efforts in raising the important issue of eating disorder services in the ACT. Ms Steen’s petition comprised 741 petitioners and, together with other advocates, she has firmly cemented the importance of lived experience in developing our services.

I am also grateful to Dr Marisa Paterson MLA for sponsoring the petition and ensuring that support for people with eating disorders remains front and centre for both the ACT government and the Canberra community. Finally, I recognise the previous petitioner from 2018 who shone a light on this important need for our community. Thank you for kickstarting this conversation.

The ACT government is committed to improving eating disorder services in the ACT across the full spectrum of care so that we can provide the best treatment and care for people with eating disorders when they need it and where they need it.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can have significant impacts on the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of the individuals and families affected. A person with an eating disorder has increased risks of developing long-term mental and physical illnesses, an increased risk of premature death due to medical complications and an increased risk of suicide. Although the incidence peaks nationally between the ages of 12 and 25, eating disorders can occur at any stage of life.

A report by the Butterfly Foundation estimated that in Australia in 2012 around four per cent of the Australian population was affected by eating disorders at a clinical level. The report summarised the personal costs of eating disorders to individuals, their families and support networks. In addition to the large personal costs, the report also highlighted significant lost productivity incurred through premature death and an impaired ability to work.

The 2018 ACT eating disorders position statement presented the ACT government’s commitment to strengthening the eating disorders services system and communicated the guiding principles that outline the government’s approach to the development of eating disorders services in the ACT. It is grounded on the premise that the most effective eating disorder service system enables seamless treatment and transitions across the continuum of health services. This is supported by evidence from eating disorders research and clinical guidelines.

The position statement proposed the development of a broader range of system-wide eating disorders services that could focus more on health promotion, early intervention and outpatient services, rather than emphasising a solution focused solely on acute services.

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