Many schools use prevention programmes aimed at stopping children from developing eating disorders. Some target children considered to be most at risk of developing eating problems while others are aimed at all children. A team of researchers from Barcelona looked into the effectiveness of a universal school-based eating-disorder-prevention programme aimed at secondary-school students. The 349 students in the study received either the full version of the programme, a partial version of it or no programme at all. They were also assessed for known risk factors for anorexia: early menarche (periods), being overweight, dieting, negative attitudes to food and perceived pressure to be thin. Both the full and partial prevention programmes reduced the perceived pressure to be thin and improved eating attitudes and the knowledge of nutrition in all the participants. However, there was a greater benefit in girls thought to be at risk because they had started their periods early, were overweight or were unduly influenced by the 'thin is beautiful' message.
Raich, R.M., Portell, M. and Pelaez-Fernandez, M.A. - Evaluation of a school-based programme of universal eating disorders prevention: is it more effective in girls at risk? European Eating Disorders Review January/February 2010, 18(1), 49-57