Have you ever felt let down by the eating disorder treatment landscape? With relapse rates so high and nearly 80% of people not getting access to the care they need to have a strong and active recovery, there’s a big debate over treatment that works. Keep reading to learn how Kristina Saffran is tackling this major problem through Equip Health.
Kristina Saffran is no stranger to the world of eating disorders. After recovering from an eating disorder in her teenage years with the help of her family’s emotional and financial support, she was determined to help others without the same privilege access treatment. She helped create Project Heal, which has grown to become a grassroots movement to break down systemic, healthcare, and financial barriers to eating disorder healing. In her time at Project Heal, Kristina connected with thousands of people pursuing recovery and noticed some common themes when it came to difficulties accessing care. From diagnosis to affordability to achieving a strong lasting recovery.
Kristina Saffran was moved by these challenges, and decided to do something to solve them.
Cue the creation of Equip. Kristina along with her co-founder Dr. Erin Parks started Equip with the intention to revolutionize access to eating disorder treatment. Equip offers virtual care conveniently delivered at home for adolescents aged 6-24, nationwide, and is covered by insurance. Their secret sauce is the “family based treatment” model, which empowers the family in the recovery process alongside a multidisciplinary care team.
What is Family Based Treatment?
“Family based treatment, is the idea that you take the healthy people in the household to structure the home environment for pro-recovery behaviors. A big part of eating disorders is not knowing how sick you are, and recovery is often ambivalent at best. You’re fighting your brain all the time, and fighting urges to over exercise and binge and purge. It’s hard to ask people to do that alone. You need support around you.” – Kristina Saffran
Support is key to the family based treatment model along with nutritional rehabilitation, because you can’t heal a malnourished brain. When the body is in a starvation state it increases anxiety, depression, and compulsivity. Nutritional rehabilitation is a necessary ingredient to lasting recovery and care for those who need it.
Kristina also acknowledges that while family based treatment is the leading and only evidence based treatment that we have for kids, adolescents and young adults with eating disorders, it doesn’t result in full recovery for everyone. So they’ve enhanced the model to include a multi-disciplinary approach where they address co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and substance use. Kristina also stresses the importance of educating families about diet culture, and this is deeply woven into Equip’s ethos to provide the knowledge and tools to fight against it.
Lastly, Kristina and her team make Equip’s treatment accessible and long lasting by working with insurance companies to cover a minimum of 12 months of treatment:
“We really educated insurance companies on the necessity of that, and they pay for a year or more of the treatment. The best research says that your best chance of a strong and lasting recovery is once you get to a place of nutritional rehabilitation and stay with your same care team for 6-12 months afterwards to stay in relapse prevention and work on all the comorbidities [anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and substance use] that exist with an eating disorder. You never have an eating disorder in isolation.” – Kristina Saffran
Kristina Saffran’s work with Equip is revolutionizing the way eating disorder treatment is delivered and accessed. Her work has been recognized by Fortune magazine, who featured Kristina on their list of 40 Under 40 for her work in health and science.
Click here to find out more information about Equip.