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Keywords:

  • China;
  • eating disorders;
  • Internet-based self-help programme;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • self-help behaviour

Abstract

Aim.  The aim of this study was to evaluate the self-help behaviour of individuals with eating disorders in an Internet-based self-help programme developed in the Asia-Pacific region and to determine their compliance with the programme.

Background.  Eating disorders represent a growing health problem affecting both Western and Asian countries. Without timely and adequate treatment, individuals with eating disorders are at risk of premature death. Self-help approaches for treating eating disorders offer therapeutic promise.

Design.  An open trial design was used.

Method.  This study, conducted from August 2006–July 2011, included 280 participants recruited from outpatient eating disorder clinics and treatment units and through a university student newspaper and Internet websites. This open trial evaluated an Internet-based self-help programme, which included components on healthy eating, family education, health assessment, motivation enhancement, self-help strategies, and psychological health promotion. The progress of participants was followed up via monthly e-mails. A tracking system was implemented to determine their compliance with the programme.

Findings.  A small majority of the participants (56·9%) were already undergoing treatment for their eating disorders. About 63% (= 176) demonstrated self-help behaviour, as manifested by their completion of health assessment questionnaires, involvement in motivation enhancement exercises, or the use of self-help strategies such as monitoring, normalizing eating behaviour, and stress management. Improvements were observed in their eating disorder psychopathology, motivational stage of change and psychological health from baseline to the 1-month follow up.

Conclusion.  Internet-based self-help programmes for eating disorders are helpful adjuncts to professional treatment.