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Adolescent Medicine

Eating Disorders Program

The Eating Disorders Program at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) diagnoses and treats children and adolescents with a range of eating disorders.  We are the primary treatment site for the central Toronto area and are a specialty centre for the province of Ontario. Our program has an interdisciplinary approach to treatment, meaning care is provided by a wide variety of health care specialists. We believe family involvement is crucial for recovery from an eating disorder.

Who We See

  • Ages 8 to 18 (new referrals accepted up to 17 years, 3 months)
  • Males and Females.
  • Struggling to eat enough to stay healthy, with concerns about their body weight or shape, or with unhealthy behaviors related to weight control.
  • We do not see young people with lifelong stable picky eating or pica/rumination issues exclusively. We do not treat young people with obesity due to binge eating.

Referral

  • A referral must be made by a medical provider (MD or NP).
  • Catchment – regional eating disorder services are available throughout Ontario – please refer your patient to regional services prior to referring to SickKids (unless SickKids is your regional program)
  • Along with medical information, the referral must include the required blood work and ECG.  It is the responsibility of your referring provider to send us this information.
  • Family involvement (parent or guardian with whom the young person lives) is required in our treatment programs.
  • SickKids has an online referral service through ARMS or eCHN (add hyperlinks to these pages). If your office does not have internet access, pleasecontact Jennifer Ponsonby (416-813-7654 ex 201914) for further direction.

Our Assessment Process

The goal of the eating disorder assessment is to determine 1) Does the child or adolescent have an eating disorder? 2) If there is an eating disorder present, how medically ill is the child or adolescent? 3) If there is an eating disorder, what type of treatment do we recommend?

It is optimal that the assessment be attended by all custodial parents/guardians.  Many care providers are involved in the assessment, including a nurse, psychologist, dietitian and medical provider (MD or NP).  Learners in any of these fields may also be involved.

Following the assessment, we will offer the best treatment option – either offered through our program or other interventions.  

What We Offer

  • Eating Disorders Inpatient Program
    The Inpatient Unit is designed primarily to medically stabilize young people with serious eating disorders.  The focus of the inpatient stay is on restoring health to the point that treatment can begin in the outpatient setting.
    Treatment includes medical monitoring, nutritional rehabilitation, psychiatric consultation and group programming
  • Eating Disorders Outpatient Program
    Outpatient treatment of young people with eating disorders usually involves family therapy (http://www.maudsleyparents.org) with a specialized therapist, along with medical monitoring by an adolescent medicine provider.  Consultation with a dietitian and a psychiatrist is also available to those participating in the program.
    For children less than 13 years of age, we offer the Children’s Outpatient Program for Eating Disorders (COPE Clinic) which offers care focused on the unique needs of the youngest eating disorder patients. Treatment is similar to that offered in the Outpatient Program, but also includes a multifamily group and separate groups for the parents and their child.
  • Eating Disorders Day Hospital (EDDH)
    The EDDH provides specialized care for young people with severe eating disorders who have already received treatment in a ministry funded eating disorders program and need longer term intensive support for recovery. The EDDH program operates five days per week and the average length of treatment is six months.  Regular family involvement is required.  Referral to the EDDH must come from an eating disorders care provider who has been treating the young person involved.
  • Family education
    For families participating in our treatment programs, we offer a two part family education series.  Part one teaches what an eating disorders is, the possible medical complications, the approach to nutritional recovery and describes the treatment we offer.  Part two focuses on how parents/guardians can support their child with an eating disorder to resume normal eating (meal support).  Families will receive information about family education at their assessment or initial meetings with their care providers.

Referrals

Please email the Mental Access Program (MHAP) at referral.mhap@sickkids.ca or call the MHAP team at 416-813-7005.

Education

We provide education to future care providers through their specific discipline (medicine, nursing, psychology, social work and dietetics).  Please contact your specialty’s hospital department for more information.

Research

As part of an academic centre, we are often pursuing research projects.  Families may be approached about participation in research aimed at improving our knowledge and treatment of paediatric eating disorders.  Participation in research is not required to be part of our program and refusal to be part of a study will not affect treatment.