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ScreenED: Developing and validating a universal eating disorder screening tool for children 5-12 years

Funding or Partner Organisation: Medical Research Future Fund (Medical Research Future Fund – Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission)
Medical Research Future Fund (Medical Research Future Fund – Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission)

Start year: 2023

Summary: The prevalence of eating disorders (EDs) in children appears to be increasing. EDs such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder are associated with a wide range of chronic and devastating impacts on child development and are very distressing for family and community. A range of initiatives are implementing universal parent- and child-report mental health screening to improve early intervention for children with mental illness. However, EDs are currently excluded from these because no validated, reliable screening instrument exists for use with children. There is therefore an urgent need to develop an appropriate diagnostic tool to ensure children with EDs are being recognised and offered early and appropriate intervention. Perfectly aligning with the goals of the Million Minds Stream 2 Incubator scheme, this project aims to develop a high-quality, well-validated, brief screening instrument (ScreenED) for children aged 5-12 years and their parents, via a robust, collaborative, three phase process. Phase 1 involves drafting a pool of potential screening items based on systematic reviews, then refining items through co-design and expert consultations. Phase 2 involves piloting with two samples—parent-child dyads either with a known child ED diagnosis or without—to select items that best differentiate between the two groups. Phase 3 will involve a larger validation study, where parent-child dyads recruited from our partner organisations will complete the ScreenED tool online, followed by a gold-standard diagnostic interview. Analyses will then examine psychometric properties, determine sensitivity and specificity, and allow finalisation of the tool. Our project involves broad stakeholder, consumer, industry, and academic engagement, which will ensure the developed ScreenED tool is widely implemente, enabling earlier diagnoses, timely treatment, and research innovations, for children with eating disorders.

FOR Codes: Applied and developmental psychology, Clinical and health psychology, Clinical health