Latest news | 16 Dec 2020

New practice standards for health practitioners to change the landscape for eating disorders


Ahead of a credentialing system for health practitioners treating eating disorders, the Australia & New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED) has just released clinical practice and training standards for mental health professionals and dietitians.

According to recently released survey results, more than a third of people living with an eating disorder has had difficulty finding a knowledgeable healthcare provider to access treatment[1]. These practice standards will be critical to developing a skilled and competent workforce for eating disorders, providing the framework to significantly improve treatment outcomes for the one million Australians currently affected by these serious and complex mental illnesses.

The first of their kind ANZAED eating disorder treatment principles and general clinical practice and training standards were just published in the Journal of Eating Disorders. They provide guidance to clinicians, service providers and professional training programs on the minimum level of knowledge and skills required by health professionals to build competent practice in the eating disorder field. They will provide the framework for a national credentialing system for health practitioners, being developed by ANZAED in partnership with the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) over the next three years.

ANZAED Working Group Chair and spokesperson Dr Gabriella Heruc said implementation of the practice standards would bring eating disorder treatment closer to best practice; ultimately improving treatment outcomes, reducing financial costs to patients and services, and improving quality of life.

“Eating disorders are highly complex and debilitating psychiatric conditions that sadly, affect adults, adolescents and children as young as five.

“Given the serious psychological, social and physical complications associated with eating disorders, treatment is complex to manage and requires well-coordinated multidisciplinary treatment.”

According to one participant in the recent survey about MBS item numbers for eating disorders, “The first mental health professional did not identify an eating disorder after four visits when my daughter was in desperate need. Once we contacted the Butterfly Foundation and received a recommended psychologist we were thankfully on the right track.” And from another respondent, “We were initially referred to an adolescent psychologist who did not understand EDs at all, and basically just told my daughter she needed to go and eat. Practitioners without specific ED experience should be required to refer on whenever an ED is suspected.”

According to Dr Heruc: “The new practice standards outline the knowledge, practical skills and experience required to competently manage and treat patients with an eating disorder which will consequently improve treatment outcomes for patients.

“We recently saw mental health feature in the 2020-21 Federal Budget with an extension of Medicare rebates for telehealth services – the new ANZAED guidelines should help people in the future feel confident that they can seek support from an appropriately qualified clinician.”

Butterfly CEO Kevin Barrow welcomed the new guidelines and said it was a positive step forward to strengthening the eating disorder workforce.

“We have seen a huge increase in demand for support and treatment services for those living with an eating disorder this year in particular. The new practice standards are a fundamental step towards a skilled, competent eating disorder workforce able to provide consistent, high quality care to all those in need,” he said.

“In our recent survey of consumers and carers that asked about their experiences with and barriers to eating disorder treatment, it was made clear that access to health professionals who were knowledgeable in the space was vitally important.

“We know that people often feel hesitant seeking help, but if they know that the health professional is appropriately experienced, it may make for a more positive experience.”

Similar survey findings were found in a recent survey conducted by ANZAED to its members which also found concerns about accessing health professionals who had appropriate eating disorder expertise[2].

Dr Heruc said tertiary health education programs generally provide limited training in eating disorders, and graduates often enter the workforce with inadequate skills needed to work in this field.

“In 2013 NEDC conducted a Gap Analysis Report that found that 97% of clinicians surveyed had received no or insufficient training in eating disorders to enable them to provide treatment with confidence,” she said. “That led to NEDC’s development of a set of eating disorder core competencies as a foundation for strengthening the workforce.

“The new ANZAED Practice Standards build on the NEDC competencies by outlining the essential principles of treatment provision and minimum clinical practice and training standards recommended for mental health professionals and dietitians providing treatment in the field of eating disorders.”

These principles and standards are a project of ANZAED – the peak body for eating disorder professionals involved in research, prevention, treatment and advocacy in Australia and New Zealand. ANZAED fosters professional development and networking in the eating disorder field and provides leadership within the eating disorder sector.


The clinical practice and training standards can be viewed in the Journal of Eating Disorders via the following links:

ANZAED eating disorder treatment principles and general clinical practice and training standards
Heruc, G., Hurst, K., Casey, A. et al. ANZAED eating disorder treatment principles and general clinical practice and training standards. J Eat Disord 863 (2020).

ANZAED practice and training standards for dietitians providing eating disorder treatment

Heruc, G., Hart, S., Stiles, G., Fleming, K., Casey, A., Sutherland, F., Jeffrey, S., Roberton, M. and Hurst, K., 2020. ANZAED practice and training standards for dietitians providing eating disorder treatment J Eat Disord, 8, 1 (2020).

ANZAED practice and training standards for mental health professionals providing eating disorder treatment
Hurst, K., Heruc, G., Thornton, C. et al. ANZAED practice and training standards for mental health professionals providing eating disorder treatment. J Eat Disord 858 (2020).

Media Contact:

Kirsten Maier – Digital Projects Manager, ANZAED | 0447 587 180 |

Editor and producers note: Please include the following support line details in all media coverage of this story and refer to the Mindframe Media guidelines for safe reporting on eating disorders. Please include the following helpline message.

Help and Support

Anyone needing support with eating disorders or body image issues is encouraged to contact:

  • Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE) or
  • Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 23
  • For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14