Celebrating 10 Years: Five founding reasons and how we're still making a difference

In 2002, a small group of treatment professionals and community members formed the Eating Disorders Coalition of Tennessee, endowing it with a mission of providing hope, help and support to those affected by this devastating illness. So as we begin our tenth year, perhaps it’s appropriate to reflect on what the landscape looked like before EDCT came into being.

1. A decade ago, there was no single statewide resource where Tennesseans could turn to for help.

2. There was no formal support for families struggling to cope with a loved one’s illness.

3. There was no formal, statewide network of professionals who treated eating disorders, hindering their ability to form coordinated, cross-disciplinary teams.

4. There was no systematic effort to educate health professionals, teachers, counselors and coaches how to recognize and respond to an eating disorder.

5. Most of all, there was silence. Unlike other diseases, eating disorders existed in the shadows. If people spoke of them at all, it was in hushed tones. The silence made it needlessly, and cruelly, harder for sufferers and their families to find treatment. It meant that, while this disease in its various forms went on affecting as many as 25 million Americans — roughly one in 10 — their neighbors remained unaware.

Over the past 10 years, EDCT has helped break the silence. In the process, it also has helped break down some of the walls that stand between help and those who need it and between information and those who lack it.

We are continuing to “change the conversation.” Through our youth education initiatives — such as our Youth Speakers Bureau and groups on college campuses — we are raising awareness (both about eating disorders and about the resources we offer) among the age groups most susceptible to this disease.

We are reaching more people than ever before through social media, which is not only an effective vehicle for conveying information and initiating conversations but also a highly cost-effective vehicle that enables us to use finite dollars efficiently. Social media have already helped us greatly magnify the impact of our new video, “More Than a Number,” which was generously donated by the creative folks at AOL StudioNow. (If you haven’t yet seen it, please check it out on our website — and forward it to others.)

For clinicians, we provide continuing education in the identification and treatment of eating disorders. And we serve as a network by which clinicians can connect with and learn from each other, within their own disciplines and across disciplines. Last year, we launched an awareness outreach to the dental community in Tennessee — an initiative we intend to build on, since 26 percent of bulimia cases are first identified by a dentist.

We also continue to change lives. For sufferers and their families, EDCT is the go-to place where they can find the clinical resources they need to address all types of disordered eating. Last year, we began providing personalized phone consultations with sufferers who call in, helping match them to treatment and support based on their expressed needs and location. Being able to talk to someone, to hear an understanding voice, to find out that help is available can truly be life-changing for someone affected by an eating disorder.

For family members struggling with the illness of a loved one, our support groups provide invaluable help. We provide a lending library where people can learn more about eating disorders, nutrition, body image and recovery.

This organization’s work has made a real difference over the past 10 years. And as the incidence of eating disorders grows, this work matters more than ever. And so does your support. Thank you for helping to make EDCT a presence that is transforming lives and futures across our state.


Susan Akers, 2011-2012 Board President

PHOTO CAPTION:  The first Board of Directors included (l-r, top row) Jack Koch, MD; Dick Horton, (l-r, middle row) Cynthia Ezell, LMFT; Laura Lewis, LMFT; E.J. Szarwark, Frances Roy, EdD; Tami Sprintz-Hall, (l-r, bottom row) former Executive Director Tracy Rathbone, Karen Silien, PhD; Ovidio Bermudez, MD; Reba Sloan, MPH, LRD, FAED; and Betsy Vinson Matlock. Not pictured: Elliott Moore, MSSW; Rebecca Pearce, PsyD; Gina Prigoff, PhD; and Harrison Taylor, LCSW.

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