Peers call for action on eating disorders

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Peers have called on the government to take action on eating disorders, during a debate on 25 February 2013.

The debate was led by Labour peer and sociologist Lord Giddens, who attributed the pervasiveness of eating disorders to what he termed "the rise of supermarket culture".

British society's relationship with food has "an addictive compulsive kind of character", the London School of Economics professor argued, and young people are "bombarded by images of what the desirable body is like".

He said he had found it difficult to locate the government's policy on tackling eating disorders, and wanted to know what it was.

Lib Dem and former psychiatrist Lord Alderdice complained that "little has changed over the past 30 years" in how much is known about disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. He stressed the importance of investing in multi-disciplinary scientific research.

Crossbencher the Countess of Mar raised her concern that people "are being wrongly diagnosed with anorexia" and their parents "blamed" when they were suffering from other serious conditions that lead to loss of appetite such as CFS/ME (chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis).

Labour's Baroness Gale discussed websites that "glory in anorexia" and post "horrific photographs" promoting thinness.

Opposition spokesman Lord Collins of Highbury said that "early intervention is vital" in combating eating disorders and that "we need to equip young girls and boys to become more confident" in their body image.

Winding up for the government, Health Minister Earl Howe told peers that the coalition's NHS reforms would help "empower localities to make vital decisions" that would bring about "greater equity of access" to specialised services.

Lord Howe concluded with a message for those suffering from eating disorders: "You are valued, you are not invisible, and with the right targeted support recovery is not only possible but probable."

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