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Keywords:

  • ethnicity;
  • eating disorder symptoms;
  • clinician bias;
  • National Eating Disorders Screening Program

Abstract

Objective

The impact of ethnicity on access to health care for eating disorder symptoms among participants in the 1996 National Eating Disorders Screening Program (NEDSP) was examined in two studies.

Method

Self-report and clinician-assessed data were analyzed from 9,069 participants in an educational and two-stage screening program for eating disorders in Study I. In Study II, both cross-sectional and prospective data from a randomly selected sample of 289 participants from the same program were analyzed to investigate the impact of ethnic minority status on both help-seeking patterns and clinician referral patterns for eating disorder symptoms.

Results

Even after controlling for severity of self-reported eating disorder symptoms, both Latino and Native American participants in the NEDSP were significantly less likely than Whites to receive a recommendation or referral for further evaluation or care. Ethnic minority subjects with self-acknowledged eating and weight concerns were also significantly less likely than non-minority participants to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms. Only one marginally significant difference was found between ethnic minority and non-minority respondents with respect to their help-seeking behaviors, namely, ethnic minority subjects were less likely (at the level of a trend) to seek eating disorders treatment within 1½–2 years following the NEDSP.

Discussion

These data suggest that clinician bias may be an important barrier to access to care for eating disorder symptoms in ethnic minority populations. © 2003 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 33: 205–212, 2003.