Gratitude & Optimism for 2021
Greetings, STRIPED Family & Friends,
It may be true that we could all easily list a dozen things about life in 2020 that we are more than ready to leave behind. But it is also true that as a community, we have a lot to be encouraged by and proud of as we look back on the year. Some in the STRIPED network are frontline healthcare providers, committed to giving their best for as long as it takes to treat patients and families with COVID-19 and the mental health consequences of the pandemic. Galvanized by the Black Lives Matter movement, many in the STRIPED network ardently advocated against racism and for social justice and health equity for BIPOC and SGM communities.
Our goodbye to 2020 brings a feeling of immense gratitude for all of you who make up the STRIPED network. Despite the tremendous odds this year, together we’ve accomplished so much because of the inspiration, guidance, creativity, and determination of so many in our network of collaborators, trainees, partner organizations, and funders. With great appreciation for all you’ve done, we want to share just a few STRIPED highlights from 2020:
- Welcomed to STRIPED Amanda Raffoul from University of Waterloo as a postdoctoral fellow along with 20 ongoing and new trainees working with us on nearly as many projects this year. We also happily welcomed Virtual Visiting Scholars Dr. Lesley Williams of Arizona and Dr. Trine Tetlie Eik-Nes of Norway. Read more about their trailblazing work in our fall 2020 newsletter.
- Relaunched our brief online training for pediatric primary care providers on the essentials of eating disorders screening and referral. Just since the relaunch this fall, over 200 physicians and nurses from around the country have signed up for our training, which offers 3 free CME Help us reach more MDs and RNs who work with children, adolescents, and young adults, including school nurses or college health providers, by sharing this link to our free brief online training.
- Convened two successful Virtual STRIPED Showcases highlighting the innovative works-in-progress led by STRIPED network scholars from nearly a dozen countries around the world. We hope you will join us for our next Virtual STRIPED Showcase in spring 2021.
- Sponsored nearly 20 trainees to attend the Eating Disorders Coalition’s Virtual Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, where they learned skills they need to be effective advocates for evidence-based policy on eating disorders and other critical health equity and social justice challenges. Keep an eye out for the next call for advocates in spring 2021.
- Generated the most comprehensive study to date on the social and economic impact of eating disorders in the United States, with our collaborators at the Academy for Eating Disorders and Deloitte Access Economics, estimating one life lost every 52 minutes and nearly $65 billion in costs to our economy each year as a direct result of an eating disorder. Through the combined efforts of our coalition of partners from nearly a dozen leading eating disorders organizations, these heartbreaking and astounding findings reached the widest audience possible of government policymakers and community leaders and advocates.
- Carried out the first four-country study in Asia on the relationship among eating disorders, skin shade dissatisfaction, and use of predatory products like diet pills and skin-lightening creams, working with STRIPED research partners and Visiting Fellows Sook Ning Chua, Nadia Craddock, Flora Or, and Wipada Rodtanaporn.
- Advanced in four state legislatures bills based on STRIPED research to ban the sale to children of over-the-counter diet pills and muscle-building supplements, both predatory products that put the health and well-being of young people in jeopardy and pose a serious threat to health equity. The success of our Out of Kids’ Hands Campaign is in large part due to our many dogged and determined advocacy partners around the country, including the Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association, Be Real USA, Eating Disorders Coalition, and many more. In 2021 we will aim higher to reach more states with more evidence-based STRIPED policy solutions to clean up our toxic social environment for body image. Stay tuned for the new STRIPED Advocacy Playbook, set to be released in early 2021, to find out how you can get involved and jump start eating disorders prevention policy advocacy in a new state.
The lesson we take from all this? Despite a year marred by the worst pandemic in human history, together we have achieved what we set out to accomplish and more, and we are keenly aware that this success is inextricably linked with our network. Looking ahead to 2021, optimism is front of mind and eagerness to forge new creative partnerships. STRIPED welcomes the New Year inspired by this axiom from scholar bell hooks (with just the substitution of the word “science” where she had “art”): “The function of science is to do more than tell it like it is – it’s to imagine what is possible.” We look forward to a year of creative collaboration and scientific innovation with all of you in our network who share our enthusiasm for continually imagining a better world.
What a year this has been so far, with no sign of the tumult abating anytime soon. The triple pandemics of COVID-19 infection, mental distress, and racist injustice are reverberating through our society. In the public health community, current times have all of us asking ourselves, What is our role in the movement toward social justice and health equity? How can we best leverage that role to do more and do it better and faster?
For STRIPED, social justice has always been core to our mission. But what is STRIPED’s unique role in the movement toward health equity?
I recently stumbled across the concept of boundary spanning in an article by scholars and practitioners in the environmental field. It immediately resonated. Bednarek and coauthors explain boundary spanners as people or organizations working at the interface of science and policy to “enable exchange between the production and use of knowledge to support evidence-informed decision-making.”
The value proposition for boundary spanning, they argue, is that it “has the potential to increase the efficiency by which scientific evidence informs policy, foster the capacity to absorb new evidence and perspectives, enhance research relevance for societal challenges, and open new policy windows.”
If STRIPED’s role is boundary spanning, what exactly does that look like?
- On pg. 2, read about our soon-to-be released STRIPED Policy Playbook, a first-of-its-kind how-to guide on evidence-informed, legislative advocacy for eating disorders prevention. Also read about our latest report, which melds the wisdom of health economists, policy specialists, and experts with lived experience, on the enormous social and economic costs of eating disorders in the U.S.
- On pg. 4, read about our Delphi study on weight stigma in public health. Drawing on expert consensus across a diverse array of stakeholders, our Roadmap offers a range of practical steps practitioners can take to make change in their own workplaces, programs, and studies.
At STRIPED, we have long known that solving the complex problems that stand between us and achieving health equity demands a new approach to research and a new cadre of prevention scientists who are as skilled as they are nimble in working at the interface of science and policy. In boundary spanning, we’ve also found our role in the movement toward health equity.
-Bryn Austin, ScD