Inequities in the health service

IT IS hard to understand why people trying to overcome life-threatening eating disorders are not as well supported by our health services as those struggling to fight serious alcohol or drug addictions, yet that is the reality faced by some people desperate to rebuild their lives.

The Health Service Executive has confirmed that those fighting alcohol or drug addiction can benefit from support services unavailable to those fighting eating disorders. One person caught in this dreadful trap has described the policy as “discriminatory”. The fact that so many of the services offered to those struggling with alcohol or drugs are already very under-resourced is hardly an acceptable excuse either.

Nearly a decade ago it was estimated that there were 200,000 Irish people afflicted with an eating disorder and that 400 new cases were identified each year. It is also recognised that eating disorders contribute to the highest mortality rate of those suffering from any mental illness. Those figures describe a health service in some sort of crisis and a cohort of patients left to cope with the most debilitating and inequitable circumstances without adequate support.

Providing adequate health services is one of the greatest challenges facing countries right around the world. As populations grow and as ever more medical cures become available, hardly a country can meet the demand, yet it is hard to think that we cannot do much better in this instance.

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