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Jesse Brown VA takes action to support veteran eating disorder program

Jesse Brown VA Medical Center (JBVAMC) implemented an eating disorder program last summer. The program was born with the support of the Women’s Health Innovations and Staffing Enhancements (WHISE) grant. The grant was initiated through the Jesse Brown VA’s Women’s Health Program and applies to both males and females.

The WHISE funded eating disorder program allows Jesse Brown veterans to receive care through a multidisciplinary team, including a coordinator providing psychotherapy services, a dietician offering dietetic support and a psychiatrist providing medication management.

An eating disorder is a behavioral and mental condition which can be characterized by disturbances in eating behaviors and associated with distressing thoughts and emotions. It is also considered a mental health condition, as eating disorders affect both the mind and the body.

Eating disorders can affect anyone. However, veterans have a higher lifetime prevalence for eating disorders. This can be due to the various experiences a military member has faced over their civilian counterparts.

There are many risk factors causing military members to develop eating disorders. Trauma is a very high-risk factor associated with eating disorders; veterans have a higher exposure risk to trauma than civilians. Approximately one fourth of those with eating disorders have also been diagnosed with PTSD. Military culture also plays a role in the risk factor. In the military, there is an increased focus on weight, shape, perfection, and fitness.

The military environmental factors encourage thinness as the ideal and place a weight stigma with weight standards and readiness requirements. Unpredictable eating patterns and food availability can also create a “go/no-go” mentality, which carries over to negative eating habits or disorders.

There are various types of eating disorders. These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID) as well as other feeding and eating disorders.

According to Amy Kienow-Paycheck, LCSW and Eating Disorder Coordinator at JBVAMC, no one should be dealing with eating disorders alone and help is available for those in need.

Jesse Brown VA veterans in need of treatment may be referred for services through their primary care provider as well as their mental health provider. Staff within the Psychiatric Assessment Clinic (PAC) may also place referrals to Amy if disordered eating patterns are identified during mental health evaluations.

For more information regarding eating disorders and the support available, contact your primary care provider, Jesse Brown VA Eating Disorder Coordinator, Amy Kienow-Paycheck at (312) 934-8197; the Women’s Veterans Program Manager, Asya Brodsky at (312) 569-5933; or the Women Veteran Call Center at (855) 829-6636.

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