The 10th Annual Veritas Collaborative Symposium on Eating Disorders, co-hosted by The Emily Program, will unite healthcare professionals and eating disorder experts around this year’s theme, “Engaging Science, Unifying Voices, and Transforming Access.” In this article, Mae Lynn Reyes-Rodríguez, PhD, FAED, a speaker at this year’s Symposium, discusses the prevalence of eating disorders in the Latino population and underscores the need for culturally competent care.
Eating disorders do not discriminate based on race or ethnicity. Actually, data from different national studies have shown that eating disorders in the Latino population are at similar or higher prevalence when compared with non-Latino Whites (Alegria et al., 2007; Marques et al., 2011; Udo & Grilo, 2018). However, due to the historical emphasis around European White females in the eating disorder field, most of the assessments and treatments have been developed and tested with and for this population. This is problematic because it has contributed to clinician bias and stigma, which are some of the barriers preventing Latinas to seek treatment for eating disorders (Reyes-Rodríguez et al., 2013). Moreover, the research about service utilization among individuals with a history of eating disorders reveals that Latinxs with bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED) are less likely to seek treatment when compared with non-Latino Whites (Coffino, Udo, & Grilo, 2019; Marques et al., 2011). This health disparity is concerning because BN and BED are the most prevalent eating disorders in this population (Perez, Ohrt, & Hoek, 2016). Other factors such as lack of health insurance, lack of bilingual services, and lack of information about services can be associated with this underutilization of services (Ali et al., 2017; Reyes-Rodríguez, 2013). The long history of misconception and negligence has negatively affected the early detection, prevention, and treatment for eating disorders in the Latino population.