Vocal health and Bulimia Nervosa: triangulating the awareness of risks amongst patients and professionals



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Abstract: The present study was designed to answer the following questions: (a) What is the level of awareness patients with Bulimia Nervosa (BN) and the professionals who work with them regarding the vocal health risks associated with self-induced vomiting? (b) Is the bulimic population at risk for under-referral for assessment and treatment of vocal pathology? (c) How do patients and professionals perceive the role of the Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) in the treatment of eating disorder-related vocal pathology? Three original surveys were developed to address the research questions. There was one survey for individuals with a history of BN, one for SLPs, and one for other health care professionals involved in the care of bulimic individuals. There were 89 total participants in the present study. Thirty were respondents to the Health Care Providers Survey, 28 were respondents to the SLP Survey, and 31 were respondents to the Patient Survey. Results indicate a general lack of awareness concerning these risks and treatment options to address them on the part of patients and health care professionals and a lack of specific knowledge of how to recognize and treat individuals with BN on the part of SLPs. Results from all three groups supported the notion that the bulimic population is at risk for under-referral for treatment for voice disorders. Finally, results suggest that SLPs do in fact provide services to persons with BN, but that at present, patients and other health care professionals do not seem to perceive the SLP as having a role in management of care of this population.