Eating disorders are frequently undetected and inadequately treated in clinical settings. The current study investigated whether weight data were used appropriately in making recommendations for further care in the first National Eating Disorders Screening Program (NEDSP).
Accuracy of counselors' assessment of appropriateness of weight for height and adherence to an algorithm using weight to determine need for further evaluation were assessed for the 5,684 adult participants in a two-stage screening program held on college campuses.
In 95% of cases, the counselors correctly used the algorithm developed for the NEDSP to assign participants to weight categories ranging from normal to extremely underweight. However, counselors were poorly adherent to an algorithm directing them to recommend urgent evaluation to all extremely underweight participants—that is, those with a weight at or below 75% of expected weight. Of the extremely underweight participants (n = 32), only 25.0% (n = 8) received an appropriate recommendation for urgent evaluation, whereas 59.4% (n = 19) received a recommendation for further (but nonurgent) evaluation, and 15.6% (n = 5) did not receive a recommendation to seek any evaluation.
Clinicians appeared not to use weight data appropriately to make clinical recommendations for extremely underweight individuals. These results suggest that further specific emphasis on the health risks of extreme underweight may be helpful in training clinicians to manage patients with eating disorders. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.