Newswise — The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) has drafted the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders, an international bill of rights for people with eating disorders and their families, that seeks an end to discrimination against people with eating disorders by insurance and treatment providers.

The Charter calls for insurance companies and health care systems around the world to provide coverage for the treatment of people with eating disorders that is equal to the treatment available to those with any major medical illness. While disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are regarded as biologically-based mental illnesses, families face challenges obtaining treatment due to a lack of coverage.

The current lack of equivalent insurance benefits related to the care of individuals with eating disorders has devastating consequences to individuals and families and represents blatant discrimination against these individuals, 90% of whom are female, and their families. Insurance restrictions limit the ability of sufferers to receive the medical, psychological and nutritional treatment needed to avert more serious, potentially more costly health consequences and, in some cases, death.

The risk of death for those with eating disorders is three times greater than for those who suffer from depression, schizophrenia or alcoholism. Medical consequences such as heart failure and osteoporosis are common. Eating disorders are among the 10 leading causes of disability among young women.

Insurance companies in New Jersey, for example, offer limited coverage for people with eating disorders based on the mistaken assumption that these disorders do not fulfill criteria for "biologically based mental illnesses" (New Jersey Mental Health Parity Bill, section 26-2J-4.20). "Biologically based mental illness is defined as any mental illness that current medical science affirms is caused by a neurobiological disorder of the brain; that significantly impairs cognitive function, judgment, and emotional stability; and limits the life activities of the person with the illness," explained AED President Eric van Furth, MD, FAED. "Eating disorders clearly fit the criteria for biologically based mental illness and are worthy of the same level of coverage set for other similar conditions."

The Academy for Eating Disorders is an international, trans-disciplinary professional organization with over 1,400 members worldwide. The AED promotes excellence in research, treatment and the prevention of eating disorders. It provides education, training and a forum for collaboration and professional dialogue. Visit for more information on AED, eating disorders, and the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders.