Rady Children’s helps children overcome eating disorders Taking the Fear out of Food HOT TOPIC W hen it’s more than “picky” eating, like when a child avoids or restricts food intake to a concerning level, obsessively counts calories or is anxious at the very sight of food, it’s time for parents to seek medical help. Rady Children’s and UC San Diego
evaluation by an eating disorder specialist, a dietary assessment by a registered dietician, supervised meals and snacks and behavioral interventions. Patients may need to stay for several days to weeks, and will receive up to 20 hours of group or individual therapy per week. The Medical Behavioral Unit uses a family-based treatment approach known as the Maudsley model. Originally developed at the Maudsley Hospital in London, the treatment is believed to be more effective than individual therapy for patients under age 18 and has been shown to reduce relapses. Therapy for both the patient and the patient’s family emphasizes support strategies that help the child gain control of their relationship with food. Dr. Kaye says that patients from across the country and around the world seek treatment at Rady Children’s Medical Behavioral Unit because
operate an inpatient eating disorders program called the Medical Behavioral Unit. Located at Rady Children’s, it is the only medical/behavioral inpatient unit for children and adolescents in San Diego, treating young people with medical conditions associated with severe malnutrition and eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. The clinic’s team includes dieticians, psychologists, physicians and nurses, all under the leadership of medical director Kyung (Kay) Rhee, MD, and Walter Kaye, MD, director of UC San Diego’s Eating Disorders Treatment and Research Program and a renowned expert on eating disorders. Eating disorders are increasingly recognized as biological, behavioral and psychological conditions. When helping a patient work toward recovery, Medical Behavioral Unit staff consider the brain’s reward, anxiety and impulse- control activity. Inpatient care is available to children whose eating disorders have taken a toll on their bodies. These young patients are often severely underweight, dehydrated and have abnormal cardiovascular function that requires nutritional rehabilitation and continual monitoring. “Some of these kids are so underweight or so malnourished, it’s very hard to do any kind of therapy until they’re nutritionally restored,” Dr. Kaye says.
KYUNG (KAY) RHEE, MD
WALTER KAYE, MD
there are relatively few facilities that are specially trained to do this kind of therapy. At Rady Children’s, the treatment team works with patients and their families to identify the best path forward after inpatient care. Once a patient is considered stable, they’re
referred to Rady Children’s outpatient psychiatry department or to the Partial Hospitalization Program at UC San Diego and for medical follow-up with Rady Children’s physicians.
Treatment requires a comprehensive approach. Rady Children’s and UC San Diego’s inpatient care protocol includes a complete medical examination and
An eating disorder took over April Lackpour’s life. Rady Children’s helped her get it back. After dropping down to a dangerously low weight, April was admitted to Rady Children’s Medical
Behavioral Unit, where she underwent intensive treatment and learned effective support strategies that led to success. Read more of her inspiring story at www.rchsd.org/april.
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