The most effective treatment is prevention. When it comes to eating disorders, application of this common-sense approach is vigorously debated, mostly because there’s no consensus on what causes eating disorders.

Enter Strategic Science

The fundamental premise of strategic science is this: When scientists design a new study, they should think in terms of how their study findings could help policymakers and groups make changes that benefit people.

Experts believe the goal of strategic science should be to fill in “gaps” in the knowledge used as a basis for policy decisions intended to spur positive action. For this to happen, there must be a fluid flow of communication between all the parties involved: scientists, policymakers, and community advocates.

Strategic Science and Preventing Eating Disorders

According to S. Bryn Austin, professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health, there is a lack of studies that correlate preventive strategies and clinically proven interventions on eating disorders. Austin believes this must change if we are going to prevent eating disorders and the myriad problems associated with weight, shape, and appearance.

Estimates are 30 million Americans struggle with eating disorders in their lifetimes. Far more suffer under the effects of serious and debilitating symptoms of eating disorders. That’s far too high a number to “treat” our way out of this public health problem.

If strategic science can prevent eating disorders on a large scale — as large scale as public health prevention efforts against flu, for example — we could save millions of individuals and their families from suffering from eating disorders while cutting health care costs and the detrimental effects on society.

How Can I Help?

Applying strategic science to public health issues such as eating disorders relies on people actively participating in making the changes needed on a large scale. Here are a few simple ways to put strategic science into motion to prevent eating disorders.

The most effective treatment is prevention. Applying some basic common sense and a lot of strategic science could be the ticket to a healthier America.