New support for parents or caregivers of adolescents with eating disorders

Posted on Monday, February 23, 2015

A new educational website ( targets parents or caregivers of children between 9-18 years of age who are suffering from an eating disorder. The website was developed by Dr. Wendy Spettigue, Dr. Mark Norris and their research team at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) as part of a nationwide research study. is accessible to parents or caregivers who enroll in a research study to examine whether the information on the website is effective at increasing their knowledge of eating disorders and empowering them to make decisions related to the care of their child. The goal is to equip parents with knowledge about eating disorders, and to empower them to help support their child's recovery, while they are consulting with their family doctor and waiting to access specialized services.

Participation in the research study is completely voluntary and open to any parent or caregiver in Canada who has concerns about a child or adolescent with an eating disorder. Parents or caregivers must provide their consent and complete questionnaires before and after viewing the contents within a six-week timeframe.

“As practitioners, we were frustrated and concerned about the wait lists for an eating disorder assessment in Ottawa and other parts of the country, which is why we launched the study,” said Dr. Wendy Spettigue, co-lead of the research project and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa. “We don't want youth to be deteriorating while they wait for help. We want to help parents get an earlier start to support their child to recovery. Doing so as part of a research project allows us to measure the effectiveness of this strategy over time.”

The website includes six different teaching modules for parents, including: What is an eating disorder?; Medical risks of eating disorders; Understanding eating disorders; Treatment of eating disorders; Meal support; and Practical tips on how to support a child with an eating disorder. consists mostly of short videos and animated slide shows which are easy to view (though only available in English at this time.) A comprehensive list of recommended resources for parents or caregivers is also provided.

“Eating disorders are severe mental illnesses with dangerous medical complications,” said Dr. Mark Norris, co-lead of the research project and associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa. “This website helps parents understand that eating disorders are not the fault of the parent or the child, and answers many of the questions they may have relating to the illness, including reasons to worry, meal support, emotional support, and treatment options.”

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About the CHEO Research Institute

The CHEO Research Institute coordinates the research activities of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and is affiliated with the University of Ottawa. Its three programs of research include molecular biomedicine, health information technology, and evidence to practice research. Key themes include cancer, diabetes, obesity, mental health, emergency medicine, musculoskeletal health, electronic health information and privacy, and genetics of rare disease. The CHEO Research Institute makes discoveries today for healthier kids tomorrow.

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