By: Dr. Christine Peat
The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) recently held its 25th annual International Conference on Eating Disorders (ICED) in Chicago, Illinois from April 18th – 21st. The theme of this year’s conference was “Expanding Our Community and Perspectives,” and the content was aimed at broadening the evidence base and clinical perspectives within the eating disorders field. The conference kicked off with a stimulating keynote address from the renowned clinical psychologist Alan Kazdin (Yale University) during which he stressed the importance of reducing the burden of eating disorders by focusing on interventions (and research paradigms) that are scalable, reach the greatest number of people, and incorporate the patient perspective.
In keeping with this theme, there were several plenary sessions that were geared toward expanding our perspectives on both scientific research and clinical interventions. For example, the first plenary session highlighted the importance of employing strategic science to improve our ability to influence eating disorder-related policy. Although many in the eating disorder field are invested in advocacy work, the presenters encouraged us to do so with a data-driven approach. The second plenary encouraged us to expand our definition of eating disorder recovery. The presenters (including UNC’s Anna Bardone-Cone) helped us improve our understanding of the current state of the science, and also encouraged us to consider that recovery may or may not be an appropriate goal, particularly in the case of severe, and enduring anorexia nervosa. That perspective is certainly not without its challenges, but the presenter (Phillipa Hay) eloquently argued that shifting the treatment focus to improving quality of life (over explicit weight gain, for example), may allow for a more person-centered approach.
The final two plenary sessions aimed to improve our engagement in and knowledge of leading-edge science in the field. The third plenary focused on community-based participatory research and encouraged researchers to involve community stakeholders in both the design and implementation of eating disorder studies. Such efforts can provide crucial insights into how interventions and research methods can be improved and can expedite the implementation of research findings into the communities who need them most. In doing so, community-based participatory research allows for eating disorder communities to be an active and reciprocal part of the research process. The final plenary was centered on the role of the microbiome in eating disorders. Our own Cynthia Bulik and Ian Carroll were notable members of the plenary panel and helped us better understand how the microbiome-gut-brain axis can influence the weight continuum and the extent to which current research can inform clinical care.
Throughout the conference, participants were exposed to many opportunities to educate themselves and also to network with a community of peers. In addition to the keynote and plenaries above, there were daily workshops and paper/poster sessions during which participants could obtain in-depth knowledge on clinical interventions, innovative scientific investigations, and efforts to close the research-practice gap. In sum, ICED 2018 was an interactive opportunity to learn, engage in dialogue, and advance the study and treatment of eating disorders.