First the Meloni administration's reduction (and then restoration) in funding for nutrition and eating disorders (ADN), now a Democratic Party bill aimed at preventing and treating them. Even if politicians timidly try to highlight this issue which constitutes a social and health emergency, the picture is increasingly alarming. From 2019 to today, cases have increased by 40%. In our country, according to data from the Ministry of Health, more than three million people suffer from DNA. This is a true epidemic that exploded dramatically during the period of Covid restrictions, which had a negative impact on the mental health of the population and an increase in diagnoses of at least 30 to 35 %. And experts note that the number of diagnoses has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels. It is also worrying to note that the age of onset of eating disorders is decreasing, with 30% of cases appearing before the age of 14 (2023 data). Medical centers report cases of children as young as 8/9 years old who present symptoms of disorders typical of adolescence or adulthood and no longer those typical of childhood.

Among the little ones, Arfid's disorder worries

Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder are the most commonly diagnosed disorders. Valeria Zanna, head of the Anorexia and Eating Disorders Operational Unit at the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in Rome, reports toHandle because in younger patients, a particular disorder is increasingly recorded, that of avoidance/restriction of food intake, more briefly called Arfid. As reported by the Italian Association of Eating and Weight Disorders (AIDAP), this disorder manifests itself in three ways: avoidance of food due to an apparent lack of interest in food or eating (also known as emotional food avoidance disorder); sensory avoidance of foods, linked to their sensory properties such as appearance, smell, texture, taste or temperature; avoidance of food due to concerns about the negative consequences of eating, such as choking, vomiting, or nausea.

The (long) waiting lists

In the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, the timing of intervention plays a crucial role. Pathologies linked to nutrition and eating disorders, if neglected, can lead to serious complications at the organic level involving all body systems: cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, hematological, skeletal, nervous system central, dermatological and others. An aspect that should not be underestimated because it increases the risk of the disease becoming chronic. In severe cases, it can lead to death, particularly in the context of anorexia. But too often we encounter waiting lists that are too long and unsuitable. The average waiting time in our country to be treated by the national health service is between 3 and 6 months. In some cases, it can take up to a year to receive a diagnosis. According to data from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, there are a total of 126 centers dedicated to eating disorders, including 112 public and 14 private. On the funding side, the government has allocated 10 million euros for 2024 to support centers and care pathways dedicated to nutrition and eating disorders. But experts and associations continue to denounce the insufficiency of this operation to resolve the problem.

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