The College of William and Mary is fortunate to host a wide range of health-oriented initiatives, many student run, that bring awareness and support to the issues its campus faces. Notably, sexual and mental health issues have raced to the forefront of the student body’s agenda, with organizations such as Health Outreach Peer Educators and The Haven championing educational and awareness-based campaigns.
While the increased attention to these incredibly important issues is completely warranted and necessary, it should not come at the expense of other equally important issues, albeit issues that affect less visible populations. Healthy eating and eating disorders, however, are two such topics that have seemingly slipped through the cracks.
Most telling of the attention paid to eating disorders is the fact that not only is the Health Promotion office’s link defunct, but the office itself was unaware of the issue that it was providing outdated information.
The accessibility of information about eating disorders and mindful eating indicates its lower prioritization on campus. When searching through the William and Mary Health Promotion webpage, healthy eating is not listed under the health topics. Moreover, the only eating disorder link provided under the Resources and Links page directs students to the Collegiate Awareness for Eating Smart page, an organization that no longer exists on campus and whose webpage bears a 2010 expiration date.
Most telling of the attention paid to eating disorders is the fact that not only is the Health Promotion office’s link defunct, but the Health Promotion office itself was unaware of the issue that it was providing outdated information. The Counseling Center’s webpage — which lists information on binge eating and starving, the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and advice on how to help friends dealing with anorexia and bulimia — represents essentially the most substantial resource and only encompasses a single webpage.
The effects of eating disorders on the lives of students are just as real as the effects of any other health issue, and those students deserve the same level of quality care as any other student.
Budgetary and resource constraints obviously affect the decision-making process regarding which issues to champion. However, the relatively simple maintenance of an informational webpage should not be neglected; it is the most basic form of service the College can provide. While the College has many issues it must divide its attention between, the fact that this most basic service was overlooked is incredibly telling of how much focus eating disorders really garner. The school should be providing as much useful and accessible information as possible while working within its budgetary constraints.
The challenge is to strike a balance of distributing attention across the spectrum of health topics. While the efforts to promote issues that have recently garnered higher levels of attention at both the national and local level is commendable, the College should remain conscious of addressing issues that affect smaller populations. The effects of eating disorders on the lives of students are just as real as the effects of any other health issue, and those students deserve the same level of quality care as any other student. The College should strive to establish low-cost programing and basic services to continue to address the issue of eating disorders on campus.