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A National Educational Programme for Eating Disorders
Finn Skårderud, Kari-Brith Thune-Larsen.

Background: Enhancing professional clinical competence in the field of eating disorders at all levels of the health care system is necessary to conduct prompt and adequate treatment. This paper describes the structure and content of a Norwegian educational programme – “Body and self esteem” – to raise the clinical competence among health professionals treating patients with eating disorders. Apart from the individual competence, another objective is to increase system-based competence by forming network groups.

Aim : to raise clinical competence in eating disorders by 1) providing knowledge about eating disorders particularly with respect to prevention, diagnostic
evaluation and treatment, 2) strengthening interdisciplinary work, and 3) encouraging therapists to function as a resource in the field of eating disorders in their local health care services, in terms of education, supervision and establishing local professional network groups.

Structure and Methods: The programme was initiated in two of the five health regions in Norway in 1997, and hundreds of professionals have participated. This programme has 17 days of education, that is 11 days of plenary lectures and six days of network group supervision, all within the frame of 1½ years. The first semester starts with a 5-day seminar in a hotel in rural settings, satisfying the idea of establishing and strengthening professional network groups and encouraging the participants to become personally acquainted. The second and third semester include six plenary 1-day seminars and six supervision days with network groups spread out over the semesters. It was decided to recruit at least one third of the participants from the primary health care services. In general, applicants were selected based on a combination of individual motivation and a potential of dissemination through local network groups. The programme has later been expanded to include the three last health regions, covering the whole country, with minor modifications in structure.

Evaluation: The programme is continually evaluated. Using a pre-post design, the programme’s effectiveness was described covering the first 78 participants with respect to competence changes, professional attitudes towards treatment, satisfaction with the programme, and dissemination effects.

Results: At the end of the programme, statistically significant changes in clinical competence were found. The participants satisfaction were generally good, particularly with respect to gaining more theoretical knowledge and understanding, and clinical skills training. Also, more focal changes were found with respect to improved understanding and treatment of eating disorders.

Conclusions: The programme, based on the evaluation, appears as highly promising, and had functioned as empirical background to inspire the structuring of educational programmes in other regions and countries.

Evaluations by Rambøll Management in 2005 had positive results.