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Report suggests military needs to do more when it comes to eating disorders

GAO finds half of all TRICARE-approved eating disorder treatment facilities are located in five states.
Credit: U.S. Navy
Culinary Specialist Seaman Nathan Warren, from Dover, Del., prepares a meal aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Government Accountability Office says that although the United States military does screen for eating disorders among all applicants, it does not specifically screen for it after entrance into the armed forces.

The report says the Department of Defense provides health care to approximately 9.5 million TRICARE recipients. Among TRICARE-approved facilities, there are 166 eating disorder facilities in 32 states and Washington D.C. 

But the report points out, more than half of the facilities are located in five states: California, Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia, suggesting the there may not enough eating disorder facilities spread throughout the country to service the 1.3 million active-duty personnel and more than 800,000 reservists in all 50 states.

The report says, "The effect eating disorders can have on health and combat readiness of service members and their dependents underscores the importance of screenings and treatment in this population."

The National Institute of Mental Health says eating disorders are serious and sometimes fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder.

Common eating disorders include binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and, less common but very serious, anorexia nervosa.

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