Health Check: Eating disorders in children

It's a big problem: children and young adults with eating disorders.

"About 10 percent of girls will be affected by an eating disorder. The ratio of girls to boys is two to three females to one male case of eating disorders," said Dr. Abigail Donaldson, who is the medical director of the eating disorders program at Hasbro Children's Hospital.

Allison Hall is a clinical social worker with the program.

"We know that there's a genetic predisposition for eating disorders. We know that we live in a society that really oftentimes has unrealistic ideals as far as what people should look like. And we also are seeing marketing toward younger kids as far as what they should look like and things they should be purchasing to change their appearance," Hall said.

To help meet the need for eating disorders treatment, the program at Hasbro has recently expanded. The team is multidisciplinary.

"Medical professionals, psychiatric RNs, psychiatry, psychology, clinical social workers. And nutrition is very active with our program," Hall said.

As a result?

"Our waiting list has been able to get shorter so that patients are able to be seen sooner and able to get connected with the clinical services much quicker," Donaldson said.

The key to successfully treating your child is to get him or her in sooner rather than later, which means you need to pay attention to any changes in your child.

"Being aware of any changes you're seeing your child's eating, being cognizant of the changes that you might see in the types of food they're eating, the amounts of food they're eating, if you notice them skipping meals," Hall said.

And it may not be so obvious because some kids with eating disorders are of average weight or may even be overweight.

The eating disorders program treats children as young as seven and has patients in their 20s. And they don't just treat the child; they make it a family affair and get parents involved too.