National Eating Disorders Association
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National Eating Disorders Association Announces Clinical Research Grant Winners

Projects will focus on virtual reality technology, body image, peer mentorship models, and a mobile app for treatment professionals.

NEDA Staff

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is proud to announce its fifth annual Feeding Hope Fund for Clinical Research grant recipients. Aiming to close the gap in the severely underfunded field of eating disorders (ED) research & treatment, NEDA has awarded $1.3 million to date. Funding for ED research is severely lacking despite having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness but, with these grants, NEDA is making progress towards the advancement of treatment options and prevention projects. 

The research of this year's winners will focus on: 

  • Using virtual reality technology to improve outcomes and efficiency of care for adults in a clinical outpatient environment.
  • Examining the effects of promoting body functionality and gratitude with a goal of fostering positive body image and decreasing eating disorder symptoms.
  • Evaluating the feasibility and efficacy of peer mentorship among the eating disorder community.
  • Developing and testing a mobile app aimed at helping treatment professionals identify clients who are at-risk of treatment failure. 

Commented Claire Mysko, CEO of NEDA, "The National Eating Disorders Association is dedicated to achieving our vision of a world without eating disorders. We are proud to say we have contributed $1.3 million in research dollars to help close the gap in research funding for these deadly, misunderstood illnesses. It’s time to ensure researchers have the resources to develop effective treatment and preventative programs to help the 30 million Americans who will experience an eating disorder. NEDA is proud to support that goal and thankful to the researchers and donors who share our mission." 

The Feeding Hope Fund for Clinical Research provides grants to qualified clinical researchers who have been selected through a very competitive application process. These grants focus on innovative treatment research, prevention research, and training dissemination research. 

This year, NEDA’s board of directors and research advisory council awarded one grant of $100,000 in the innovative treatment category and two grants of $50,000 in the prevention category. Also awarded, in partnership with the Eating Recovery Foundation, was the second annual Early Career Investigator grant of $50,000, bringing the total research grants awarded to more than $1.3 million to date.

Richard C. Kraus, Chairman of the Board of the Eating Recovery Foundation, comments, “Eating Recovery Foundation is committed to increasing access to education and awareness programs, supporting research and providing charitable care resources to those impacted by eating disorders. We are excited by this research, which promises to use technology in creative ways to help more individuals as they work toward recovery. We look forward to sharing the research findings and generating more interest in investing in eating disorder research and education.”

The 2017 Feeding Hope Fund grant recipients are:

INNOVATIVE TREATMENT AWARDEE: 

Cristin Runfola, Ph.D., and Debra Safer, M.D., Stanford University, for Virtual Reality Intervention Adaptation to a Real-World Clinic Setting. This study aims to adapt and enhance existing virtual reality protocols for a U.S. population within an adult outpatient clinical setting, leveraging the increased efficacy of VR to improve outcomes and efficiency of care. Year one of the study will focus on operational adaptations of the existing European protocols, including software development, the creation of a treatment manual, and a clinician training protocol for binge-related EDs (BED/BN/OSFED). Year two of the study will test feasibility and acceptability of the protocol for both clinicians and patients.

Commented Dr. Runfola and Dr. Safer, “We are excited about the opportunity to build upon the innovative work that’s been conducted in Italy and Spain using virtual and augmented realities within the treatment of eating disorders to enhance the recovery process for individuals in the U.S.”  

PREVENTION AWARDEES: 

Lisa Ranzenhofer, Ph.D., Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, for Evaluation of Communities of HEALing Mentorship and Social Support Programs for Individuals with Eating Disorders: Assessment of Feasibility and Efficacy, of which the objective is to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of peer mentorship as an adjunct intervention in patients with eating disorders.

Said Dr. Ranzenhofer, “Peer mentorship has gained popularity across mental health fields including eating disorders, and evaluating its effectiveness is imperative. We are so grateful to NEDA for giving us the opportunity to begin addressing this important question in collaboration with our study partner, Project HEAL”.

D. Catherine Walker, Ph.D., Union College, for In the Mirror: Functional Appreciated Bodies (IM FAB). Walker's project aims to examine the concept of promoting attention toward body functionality and gratitude by using a weekly functionality-based mirror exposure and body functionality gratitude “journaling” text prompts throughout the week, for three weeks, to examine whether this helps foster positive body image and decreases eating disorder symptoms in a sample of undergraduate females, a population at particularly high risk of body image dissatisfaction and consequent eating disorder development.

Said Dr. Walker, “An additional study aim is to assess the feasibility, usability, and acceptability of this minimally-invasive prevention approach to provide valuable pilot data to support development and testing of mobile application-based formats of this program, given that a majority of young adults search for health information and assistance using mobile phones, according to recent Pew Research."

EATING RECOVERY FOUNDATION EARLY CAREER INVESTIGATOR AWARDEE:

This year's Eating Recovery Foundation Early Career Investigator grant of $50,000, will be awarded to Kelsie Forbush, Ph.D., University of Kansas, for Development and Validation of an Adaptive Mobile Phone App to Identify Clients at Risk for Treatment Failure. The objective in this application is to develop and validate a brief, user-friendly measure to identify ED treatment failures. To accomplish this, a computerized adaptive delivered within the app will be employed to signal clinicians when their clients are at risk for treatment failure.

Said Dr. Forbush, “Eating disorders are the deadliest form of mental illness. Our project will use a new computerized adaptive test delivered within a mobile phone app to provide therapists with feedback to identify clients who are at risk for poor treatment outcomes. Empowering therapists by giving them the tools they need to quickly and easily identify 'at risk' clients will help them decide when to intensify their ongoing treatment or refer their client to a higher level-of-care.” 

Since 2012, The Eating Recovery Foundation has positively changed how eating disorders are viewed, diagnosed, prevented and treated through offering innovative education, information and research programs and supporting access to care. To date, the Foundation has supported 193 patients from 27 states in accessing treatment, brought The Body Project educational training to 60 colleges and funded the research of two professionals through the NEDA Young Investigators Grant. For more information, visit eatingrecoveryfoundation.org or contact [email protected].