Stay informed with the latest updates on coronavirus (COVID-19). Find out more >>

Eating Disorders Research Program

  • Background and aims

    The Eating Disorders Research Program aims to improve knowledge about effective management of anorexia nervosa and other restrictive eating disorders in order to develop treatments that give the best chance for recovery.

    A key project conducted by the Eating Disorders Research Team was a clinical trial of a new form of family-based treatment (FBT) anorexia nervosa. This treatment focused on parents seeing the therapist alone, rather than the whole family seeing the therapist together. From 2010 to 2016, there were 107 families involved in the study, making it the largest single-site study of FBT in the world. The study has given services and families a new treatment option for adolescents with anorexia nervosa. 

    Projects currently underway include:

    • Effectiveness of stepped-care for adolescent anorexia nervosa
    • Evaluation of a new combination treatment for avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

    Previous studies conducted include:

    • Clinical outcomes of bradycardia (low heart rate) during hospitalisation for anorexia nervosa
    • Evaluation of the RCH Eating Disorder Program
    • The experience of siblings of adolescents with eating disorders
    • Neurocognitive functioning of adolescents with atypical anorexia nervosa
    • Experience of care of adolescents and parents at the Eating Disorders Program
    • The importance of family member participation in treatment sessions for anorexia nervosa
    • Evaluation of a parent skill workshop for parents of adolescents with anorexia nervosa

    Key Papers

    Hughes, E.K., Poker, S., Bortz, A., Yeo, M., Telfer, M. & Sawyer, S.M. (2020). Adolescent and parent experience of care at a family-based treatment service for eating disorders. Frontiers in Psychiatry: Psychosomatic Medicine, 11, 310. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00310

    Trainor, C., Gorrell, S., Hughes, E.K., Burton, C., Sawyer, S.M., & Le Grange, D. (2020). Family-based treatment for anorexia nervosa: What happens to rates of comorbid diagnoses? European Eating Disorders Review, 28(3), 351-357.  doi: 10.1002/erv.2725

    Hughes, E.K., Burton, C., Sawyer, S., & Le Grange, D. Participation of mothers, fathers, and siblings in family-based treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Accepted 16 September 2017. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2017.1390756.

    Ganci, M., Pradel, M., & Hughes, E.K. (2018). Feasibility of a parent education and skills workshop for family-based treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 51 (4), 358-362. doi: 10.1002/eat.22834.

    Le Grange D., Hughes E.K., Court A., Yeo M., Crosby C., & Sawyer S.M. (2016). Randomized clinical trial of parent-focused treatment and family-based treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 55(8): 683-692. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.05.007

    Sawyer, S.M., Whitelaw, M., Le Grange, D., Yeo, M., & Hughes, E.K. (2016). Physical and psychological morbidity in adolescents with atypical anorexia nervosa. Pediatrics, 137(4): e20154080. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-4080.


    RCH Eating Disorders Service

    University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) - Eating Disorders Program


    The Baker Foundation

    Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

    The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation

    University of Melbourne

    Further information

    To find our more or if you think you can help, contact the team on or visit the RCH Eating Disorders Service.