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Donations Matter: National Eating Disorders Association Feeding Hope Fund

Heather Hower, MSW, LICSW, QCSW, ACSW

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is committed to providing help and hope to those affected by eating disorders (EDs). The Feeding Hope Fund (FHF) for Clinical Research was established in 2013 in order to support projects that will improve the lives of those affected. Over $1 million in research grants has been awarded for innovative treatment and prevention. In 2018, we received an enormous increase in the amount of applications from 2017, which we believe is a good indication of increasing awareness of this very unique ED funding opportunity. 

The FHF is designed to provide initial funding for pilot studies, which will enable the researchers to later apply for larger grants (e.g., from the National Institute of Mental Health). In addition to established researchers, the FHF has a specific category for early career investigators, in order to support the next generation of ED professionals. FHF awardees have not only successfully conducted their studies, but have made valuable contributions to the field.

As a NEDA board member, psychiatry researcher, and recovered professional, I have a special connection to the FHF as a donor. I am honored to support a program that encourages cutting edge science that will examine novel interventions, as well as develop programs to ideally prevent the onset of EDs. I know that my contributions to the FHF will not only help with funding the current group of researchers, but also signal to other donors that it is worth the investment.

I believe that it is especially important to advocate for much more awareness, education, funding, research, and treatment of EDs, for a number of reasons. EDs affect a large number of people, of all ages, races/ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. This includes not only those who personally experience EDs, but their loved ones, colleagues, and wider society.

EDs affect an individual's mental and physical capabilities (anorexia nervosa is the deadliest mental illness), and thus quality of life, including relationships, academic/occupational roles, recreational pursuits, and overall satisfaction. When these individuals are not functioning well, it also has a negative impact on their interpersonal interactions, work productivity, participation in group social activities, and engagement with others. Indeed, EDs are a public health issue that have not been properly recognized and addressed thus far. This is due in part to the stigma surrounding mental health disorders in general, and EDs in particular. However, other disorders (e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorders) have received a level of scientific legitimacy, public acceptance, widespread advocacy, and far greater amounts of funding compared to those of EDs. 

The NEDA FHF is a small, but crucial, program that helps to support early stage research which may not have otherwise been funded, including from early career investigators. I am very excited about my personal contributions. I encourage others to donate, apply, and follow the research.

To learn more about the Feeding Hope Fund, and to donate, click here.

Heather Hower, MSW, LICSW, QCSW, ACSW has served on the Board of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) since 2013 (including as a Feeding Hope Fund grant reviewer), and collaborates with her NEDA colleagues on Eating Disorder research studies, papers, and presentations. Heather serves as Research Project Director at Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, and  Faculty-Research Associate at Brown University School of Public Health, Department of Health Services, Policy, and Practice, Hassenfeld Child Innovation Institute. Heather had anorexia nervosa for 23 years, and has been recovered since 2012. Heather can be found on on Twitter (@heatherhower), Instagram (@heathermeghower), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/hhower), and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-hower-b60/).