Eating disorders

Eating disorders cost Australia some $69 billion per year and have huge impacts on sufferers and their families.

Deakin Health Economics researchers Professor Cathy Mihalopoulos and Dr Long Le have been working in collaboration with Western Sydney University to evaluate care for eating disorder patients in Australia since 2018.

Their research findings have indicated that psychotherapies for life-threating and debilitating eating disorders are cost-effective, but public funding is available for less than half the amount of sessions the average person needs. Studies showed an average of 20-30 sessions were required for treatments to be effective, but patients only received Medicare funding for 10. The research also showed it’s vital to keep people in treatment as the more people drop out, the more likely the intervention is not cost-effective.

This research contributed to the revision of Medicare funding policy in relation to eating disorders in Australia, with new Medicare items introduced on 1 November 2019 that effectively increase the amount of treatment for which eligible patients with an eating disorder can receive a rebate from 10 sessions to up to 60.

“This is a great step forward for the effective treatment of eating disorders, which are increasing in prevalence and remain the most fatal of all mental disorders,” said Professor Mihalopoulos, Director of Deakin Health Economics.

The project team includes Professor Cathy Mihalopoulos and Dr Long Le. The team’s work is funded by numerous sources, including the NHMRC.