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An Intervention to Increase Self-care Behavior among Parents of Children with Eating Disorders. Sheetal J. Patel, 1 Autumn Shafer, 2 Cynthia M. Bulik, 3 Nancy Zucker, 4 Jane D. Brown 3 1 University of Texas-Arlington, 2 Texas Tech University,

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An Intervention to Increase Self-care Behavior among Parents of Children with Eating Disorders

Sheetal J. Patel,1 Autumn Shafer,2 Cynthia M. Bulik,3 Nancy Zucker,4 Jane D. Brown3

1University of Texas-Arlington, 2Texas Tech University,

3University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 4Duke University


  • To develop and implement a communication campaign targeted towards parents of children with eating disorders

  • Goals:

    • 1) Encourage parents to engage in self-care and help-seeking behaviors

    • 2) Increase parents' use of coping strategies

    • 3) Help parents to understand that to help their child effectively, they must also attend to their own emotional needs and seek support

    • 4) Ultimately to reduce stress related to caring for their child and improve their ability to be a supportive parent in recovery


  • Methods

    • Message development: 3 focus groups with parents; 19 interviews with clinicians in eating disorders; and online message experiment with 118 parents

    • Campaign evaluation: Survey with 30 clinicians in the UNC and Duke eating disorder programs; and interviews with 10 parents; pre/post campaign survey with 62 parents

  • Findings

    • Barriers to self-care: Parents identified a need for permission from clinicians/ other parents, while clinicians focused on parents lack of time to engage in self-care

    • Motivating benefits of self-care: Parents and clinicians agreed it was important to show a connection between self-care and their child’s health outcomes

    • Effective message appeals should: Focus on benefits of self-care rather than negative outcomes of not doing self-care; validate parents’ feelings; tie self-care to child’s recovery; and include section on how to access to more information and resources

    • Campaign evaluation research: In data analysis stage


  • Campaign materials included the following:

    • Comprehensive website with resources and self-care information:

    • Posters with gain-frame messages that highlighted benefits of self-care

    • Brochure with self-care information and resources

    • Pens/ notepads for parents

    • Direct mail to parents with postcard, brochure, mini-poster and magnet

    • Self-care reminders via text messaging

    • Treatment team kits for healthcare providers, including office calendar, ID button that said “Ask Me About Self-Care” and tips for talking with parents about self-care

    • Waiting room banners

UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Contact: Sheetal Patel, [email protected], (817)272-7036,

University of Texas-Arlington, Dept. of Communication, Arlington TX, 76019-0107