Women's Health Project

Women's Health Project

The long-term goal
is to advance the treatment of binge eating and related problems for
ethnic minority individuals by developing effective and accessible
intervention programs.  The specific aims of this project are to adapt a
self-help program for Mexican American women with eating disorders and
to test the effectiveness of this treatment on a community sample.

 Our past
research has demonstrated that eating disorders, particularly those
accompanied by binge eating such as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and
Bulimia Nervosa (BN), do occur in Mexican American women and pose
serious mental and physical health risks. Eating disorders are chronic
and debilitating disorders associated with numerous physical and
psychiatric problems such as diabetes, obesity, bone-mass loss,
infertility, depression, and anxiety.  Yet despite their chronicity and
severity, eating disorders largely go undetected and untreated. 
Moreover, women of ethnic minority groups are the most likely to suffer
from unmet mental health needs.  Our recent research has demonstrated
numerous barriers to seeking and receiving treatment for Mexican
American women with eating disorders.  In one study we found that less
than 28% of a sample of Mexican American women with full-syndrome eating
disorders ever had sought treatment, and of this group only 5
individuals (6.6%) actually had received treatment.  Such findings
underscore the great need for treatment that is accessible to this

Cognitive behavior
therapy (CBT) is considered the treatment of choice for BN  and BED. 
However, CBT is a costly and not readily available treatment requiring
specialized training and expertise.  Therefore research has begun to
examine the effectiveness of guided self-help (GSH), which is based on
the principles of CBT, as a minimal intervention or first step in the
treatment of binge eating related problems. Guided self-help (GSH) is a
low intensity intervention in which patients use a self-help manual with
only limited support and instruction from either a specialist or
nonspecialist in clinical or nonclinical settings.  GSH is briefer, less
costly and more easily disseminated than CBT, and research with European
and European American women indicates it is efficacious for the
treatment of BN and BED. Yet no studies to date have examined the use of
GSH with ethnic minority populations, who are the groups most in need of
accessible and low-cost treatment.  Furthermore, research from related
areas suggests that for an intervention to be (most) effective with
diverse populations, cultural variables and cultural context need to be
taken into consideration and incorporated into the intervention.

Findings from this
study will contribute to advances in the treatment of BN, BED, and
related binge eating problems including obesity for Mexican American
women.  The proposed project will provide an important step in
developing effective and accessible treatment for ethnic minority
individuals with eating disorders, who are groups largely neglected in
treatment trials and research and are currently underrepresented in
clinic populations.

To contribute to this
project or for more information, contact Dr. Fary Cachelin at