Harvard Medical School announced yesterday that it will open in January a center to coordinate research on eating disorders.
The Eating Disorders Center will fund research and educate students and faculty about preventing eating disorders, administrators said yesterday.
"Researchers haven't been working together to study eating disorders," said Charlotte B. Wilson, administrative director for the center. "We will bring researchers together to interface with each other and share their data".
Various eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia, plague one-fifth of college women nationwide, Wilson said.
The center's first prevention projects will focus on female athletes and coaches at Harvard, Wilson said.
"Female athletes are more at risk because the so-called ideal athlete is extremely thin," Wilson said.
But Women's Athletic Director Pat Henry said no specific project has been planned.
"We've talked only in general terms with the center," Henry said.
Dr. David B. Herzog, the center's founder and director, said the center will develop educational projects over the next few months.
The center, which will be based in Massachusetts General Hospital, will rely entirely on private donations for its $500,000 budget, Wilson said.
Herzog said the center is being created because federally funded research of eating disorders has decreased recently.
The center will bring together specialists in anthropology, psychiatry,
"An interdisciplinary approach is the best way to find treatment for eating disorders," Herzog said. "These are relatively newly discovered diseases so a lot of research is needed."
Research will focus on treatment and prevention.
"We'll focus on determining which treatments work and which preventative measures can reduce the chance of eating disorders," said Jennifer C. West, who coordinates projects for Herzog.
The center will sponsor two fellowships to train doctors and researchers specializing in eating disorders, Wilson said.
Many Harvard students have eating disorders, said Juliet W. Lovejoy, public relations director for Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association.
"It's common for people with eating disorders to be perfectionists and have high expectations for themselves," Lovejoy said, "so we see a huge number of Radcliffe women in our support groups.