A systems thinking perspective on the barriers to treatment access for people with eating disorders

Ben R. Lane, Gemma J.M. Read, Lesley Cook, Paul M. Salmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Treatment access remains low for people with eating disorders. In addressing the complexity inherent in this challenge, this article introduces systems thinking and argues that it could provide new insights. Systems thinking views behavior as an emergent property of a system and considers the relationships between technical, organizational, and social components. Several methods used in safety science incorporate this thinking. For example, AcciMap draws focus to the influence of decisions and actions made across hierarchical levels of a system, including those by government, regulatory bodies, management, services, and individuals. By examining the findings of the existing literature on barriers to eating disorder treatment access according to these levels, it is evident that most identified barriers relate to individuals and that further research is needed to consider the influence of high-level stakeholders. Research using systems thinking should consider the causal networks of influence from government, regulatory, and organizational decisions and actions through to outcomes for clinicians and individuals. The understanding of how barriers operate within specific healthcare systems also warrants investigation. Systems thinking is yet to be formally applied in the area of eating disorders and thus represents an opportunity to inform the development and implementation of more effective, system wide interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-179
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


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