The Southwestern Ontario region has a rich history of non-profit agencies going above and beyond to provide the very best programs, staff and knowledge to the communities that they serve. BANA has gone that extra mile…or rather an extra 25,400kms or 15,800 miles (round trip) to provide even better services!
“Eating disorders, affect individuals of all ages, genders, and ethnic groups,” explains Mary Kaye Lucier, BANA’s Executive Director. “Southwestern Ontario and the Windsor region in particular are very culturally diverse areas. In order to better provide services to these growing populations, agencies, especially those dealing with mental health, need develop an appreciation and understanding for varying cultures.”
It is in the spirit of this vision of inclusivity that BANA embarked on a truly unique mission that has the potential for countless positive benefits not only our own communities but across the globe. As an initiative to broaden their professional depth and experience as well as foster greater cultural understanding; Mary Kaye led a team from BANA and a delegation of Canadian Eating Disorder and Wellness Professionals from across the province on an exchange program to mainland China, including the communities of Beijing, Guiyang and Shanghai in October of 2009.
“As the primary regional source for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, BANA is a leader in the promotion and acceptance of diverse body shapes and sizes through the adoption of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Since its inception, BANA has provided services to thousands of individuals of all ages, genders and social/economic backgrounds with an ongoing case load of approximately 300 clients. In addition, we annually organize and host 250 educational health promotion presentations and programs that reach more than 20,000 children and adults.” says Lucier. “By better understanding other cultures and techniques, we can better serve our community.”
BANA’s services are provided without age restrictions and are supported by the Ministry of Health and the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integrated Network. Most recently, BANA was accepted into membership in the Worldwide Charter for Action on Eating Disorders. The Charter’s goal and the role of its members is to improve the availability and the quality of treatment and services for people with eating disorders and their families.
Research shows that as a result of increasing global acceptance of the highly media-influenced and commercially dominant Western societal values regarding body weight and image, increasingly more Asian-Canadians and other cultural groups are developing greater dissatisfaction with their bodies’ natural shape. Western societal values seem to conflict in particular within certain sectors of the Chinese culture wherein children in Chinese families often suffer low self esteem, and their families can seem demeaning instead of supportive, when faced with weight and shape conflicting values. There are growing trends in adolescent Asian females in particular who are more concerned with maintaining
the dignity and pride of the family than their own well being.
They are typically reluctant to seek outside help for eating disorders, because this would involve divulging private family matters to an outsider. Although, it is documented that though Chinese parents are more willing to seek outside treatment for eating disorders if they perceive the health of their child to be threatened, it is critical that cultural understanding is part of the process.
Understanding these conflicting trans-socio-cultural factors will lead to better treatment techniques a multi-cultural perspective on best practices for eating disorder treatments. That’s was one of BANA’s primary goals in this mission.
Organized in partnership with the world renowned People to People Citizen Ambassador Program, the mission offered Canada and China based mental health professionals alike, a unique exchange opportunity that will foster local and global networking, career development, personal enrichment, and international goodwill. “Our Citizen Ambassadors interacted with Health Care Professionals in China while engaging in cultural activities, seminars, and humanitarian efforts.”
Clinical visits included the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, The China Nutrition Society, Peking University Eating Disorder Program, Public Health Department of Guiyang Medical University, Guiyang Vocational Training School. East China Normal University, and the Shanghai Mental Health Centre.
“As part of this exchange, much as we shared our expertise, understanding and methodology on the treatment of Eating Disorders, with our peers in China, they in turn provided us with a better understanding of their treatment and counseling approaches so that we can better serve the Asian population in our home communities and expand our own knowledge and skill sets. Furthermore, we have high hopes of developing an international network for ongoing collaboration, research and study of Eating Disorders on a global level.” It is the intention of Mary Kaye and her team to use the face-to-face meetings and interactions with Chinese counter parts to yield immediate professional applications and personal insights for delegates in both countries as well as produce long-term collaborations.
From BANA’s standpoint, this was a monumental undertaking. With a staff of only 8 full and part time employees, at times this venture seems a world away. “It’s the commitment our staff has to creating and maintaining a Centre for Excellence in Eating Disorders, Health and Wellness for our community that drives us to go to such lengths.” says Mary Kaye. “All of Southwestern Ontario should be proud of what they are trying to do here.”
Recognized in a letter of support Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who expressed that BANA’s “efforts will do much to foster goodwill and international co-operation between our two jurisdictions, and improve the well-being of others. This endeavour is a reflection of the strong and caring society we have built together. Your compassion and hard work serve as a source of pride and inspiration.”
The gift of a healthier community is one we can all enjoy,” explains Mary Kaye. “According to Stats Canada, over 11,000 people over the age of 15 in Essex County alone are at risk of developing an eating disorder. We can only hope that the public will join us in our efforts to provide the very best in education, preventative and treatment services.
You can check out our photo gallery of the trip on Shutterfly.