False stereotypes about eating disorders affecting only white upper middle class individuals have resulted in many minorities being neglected in both research and treatment. This has left many unanswered questions about treating Latino patients in the United States.
Dr. Mae Lynn Reyes has spent a good portion of her career working with Latinos who are battling eating disorders. Her vast clinical and research experience in Puerto Rico propelled her to conduct eating disorders research with Latinos in North Carolina. The PAS Project, which is an NIMH funded study, aims to develop a culturally appropriate eating disorders intervention for Latinas that incorporates the family into treatment. However, Dr. Reyes’ objective does not only consist of research; she also wants to educate health professionals in the area about eating disorders and disseminate the best approaches to treating eating disorders among Latinos.
The PAS Project and Wake County mental health services are collaborating to provide training sessions for mental health providers. During the last weeks in August, Dr. Reyes gave the first training sessions during which the group exchanged stories of their experiences with Latinos dealing with eating disorders and the challenges that they experienced working with this population. Some of the difficulties mentioned were the lack of Latino health/mental care providers, language barriers, the lack of an eating disorders support team (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, dietitian, and physician) to appropriately treat these patients, and not knowing what type of treatment would be most successful with Latinos. These concerns demonstrate the need to educate professionals about eating disorders in regards to Latinos and the need to conduct research studies, like the PAS Project, to adapt interventions for the Latinos. Together, the PAS Project and Wake County mental health services can gradually start the process to better serve the Latino community, and they can also spread awareness that eating disorders do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity.
By: Marissa Garcia (Research Assistant for the PAS Project)