According to a study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, evidence-based online training programs can target a wide range of health professionals and are effective for improving learning outcomes and mitigating barriers to treating patients with eating disorders.

The investigators of this study sought to examine the efficacy of an online clinical training program, The Essentials, to educate health professionals on the identification, assessment, and management of eating disorders and to decrease stigmatization of treating patients with eating disorders.

The study included 1813 health professionals who registered for The Essentials program between October 2013 and July 2018. Participants were asked to complete pre- and post- training questionnaires to assess their willingness to treat, confidence, knowledge, skills, stigmatization, and attitudes toward patients with eating disorders. The investigators collected baseline demographic information from the respondents as well as their primary discipline, work setting, years practicing, and experience treating eating disorders. The respondents were further asked to rate their online learning experience and satisfaction upon program completion. The Wilcoxon signed rank test was used to evaluate changes in learning outcomes (willingness, confidence, knowledge, etc.) before and after completing the program. Using multivariate linear regression models, the investigators estimated the association between learning outcomes with personal and work-related characteristics.

Continue Reading

Of 1813 participants, 1160 completed at least 80% of the 5 learning modules, and 480 completed both pre- and post-training questionnaires. The investigators found statistically significant improvement in confidence (z=-17.188; P <.001), knowledge (z=-18.748; P <.001), and skills to manage eating disorders (z=-18.238; P <.001), along with a significant reduction in stigmatized beliefs (z=8.938; P <.001). Changes in personal attitudes and willingness to treat patients with eating disorders did not reach significance. In evaluating the program, more than 90% of respondents indicated that they were satisfied, that the program met their learning needs and expectations, and that the program was relevant to their practice and even improved it. In linear regression analysis, psychologists, dieticians, and rural providers were more willing to treat patients with eating disorders compared with general practitioners, social workers, occupational therapists, and other disciplines. Following program completion, participants from medical or psychiatric hospital settings in both regional and rural areas (vs metropolitan areas) reported the largest increase in confidence to treat patients with eating disorders.

Related Articles

Limitations to the study included lack of a control group or randomization, and the effectiveness of The Essentials was not evaluated against other online learning modules or training methods. Furthermore, this study did not include long-term follow up to assess whether the outcomes were sustained or whether self-reported changes were translated into changes in clinical practice.

The investigators indicate that completion of The Essentials program was associated with increases in confidence, knowledge, and skills to manage eating disorders, and participants were very positive about the program structure and content.

Disclosure: The study was sponsored by NSW Health.


Maguire S, Li A, Cunich M, Maloney D. Evaluating the effectiveness of an evidence-based online training program for health professionals in eating disorders [published online May 13, 2019]. J Eat Disord. doi: 10.1186/s40337-019-0243-5