The Latino population of the United States is the fastest growing minority group according to the U.S. Census; in North Carolina alone, the Latino population has increased by over 110% between 2000 & 2010! Within this Latino population there is still a very real threat of eating disorders as some studies have shown that binge eating and bulimia nervosa are just as prevalent or more prevalent in Latinos than in non-Hispanic Whites. Despite the growing need, there is little information about whether or how to culturally adapt eating disorders treatment the Latino population.
A community-based approach could be an avenue for those Latinos/as who continue to be under-served. Community collaboration allows institutions to build relationships and share resources with non-profit organizations. Provision of a safe and trusted place for treatment is an essential element in the process of developing a culturally sensitive intervention model. Community collaboration can be mutually beneficial for both parties and can provide researches with an easy way to become more knowledgeable of, and build rapport with their local community and can help provide a model that can readily be transferred to a real world scenario, using the resources and the services already provided by the community.
Within the UNC Eating Disorder Program, Dr. Mae Lynn Reyes-Rodríguez is building strong connections with a local non-profit organization in order to determine how best to culturally-adapt eating disorder treatment for Latinas. She received a National Institute of Mental Health grant for a study entitled Engaging Latino Families in Eating Disorder Research. The PAS Project, known in Spanish as Promoviendo Alimentación Saludable (Promoting Healthy Eating), hopes to provide services to Latinas with eating disorders in North Carolina.
Dr. Reyes-Rodríguez has been working with El Futuro, Inc., a local non-profit mental health organization to facilitate adaptation of current eating disorder treatment by integrating relevant cultural factors (e.g., treatment delivery in community settings, bilingual services, and bicultural therapists). El Futuro, Inc., offers a community network of resources for mental health services at low cost for Latinos/as with no health insurance. Recently, the PAS Project and El Futuro launched their collaboration with the training of three El Futuro, Inc., therapists. For two months, Kelly, Sara and Reyna will be receiving a comprehensive training in cognitive behavioral therapy for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Through this collaboration Kelly, Sara and Reyna will not only be ready to participate in the PAS Project as therapists, but they will also be well-positioned to continue to offer evidence-based treatment for Latinas with eating disorders at El Futuro after the PAS Project has ended. We are proud of El Futuro and their therapists’ willingness and dedication to offering the best services possible to the surrounding Latino community. We are excited about this first step towards a long-term collaboration between the UNC Eating Disorders Program and the community and look forward to reaching out to other organizations. En hora buena!