Encyclopedia of Feeding and Eating Disorders

Living Edition
| Editors: Tracey Wade

Universal Prevention

  • Gail L. McVey
  • Julia Antonini
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-087-2_155-1



Universal prevention involves fostering resilience and reducing risk among nonsymptomatic populations. In the short term, prevention programs are expected to increase resiliency and decrease risk factors. In the long term, it is expected that those changes will lead to fewer eating problems and eating disorders (EDs). This is to be distinguished from selective prevention which involves programs that focus on nonsymptomatic people who are considered at high risk due to biological, psychological, and/or sociocultural factors and indicated/targeted prevention where the target audience does not yet have the disease or the disorder, but is at risk because of the presence of clear precursors to the disease (see Levine and Smolak 2006 for a full description).

Why Prevention?

Mental health difficulties can prevent youth from attending school. More often they simply struggle on a daily basis with low self-esteem, anxiety, body image issues, low mood,...


Body Image Eating Disorder Local Public Health Youth Mental Health Weight Bias 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Almenara, C. A., Fauqet, J., López-Guimerà, G., Pàmias-Massana, M., & Sànchez-Carracedo, D. (2014). Sociocultural influences and body change strategies in Spanish adolescent boys of different weight status. Eating Behaviors, 15, 654–657. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.09.001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkinson, M. J., & Wade, T. D. (2014). Does mindfulness have potential in eating disorders prevention? A preliminary controlled trial with young adult women. Early Intervention in Psychiatry. doi:10.1111/eip.12160. Advance online publication.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Green, J., & Tones, K. (1999). For debate. Towards a secure evidence base for health promotion. Journal of Public Health, 21, 133–139. doi:10.1093/pubmed/21.2.133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Katz-Wise, S., Scherer, E. A., Calzo, J. P., Sarda, V., Jackson, B., Haines, J., & Austin, S. B. (2015). Sexual minority stressors, internalizing symptoms, and unhealthy eating behaviors in sexual minority youth. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. doi:10.1007/s12160-015-9718-z. Advance on-line publication.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Levine, M. P., & McVey, G. (2015). Developing an ecological approach to eating disorders prevention: The Ontario project. In M. P. Levine & L. Smolak (Eds.), Handbook of eating disorders (Chapter 47). West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  6. Levine, M. P., & Smolak, L. (2006). The prevention of eating problems and eating disorders: Theory, research, and practice. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  7. McGorry, P., Bates, T., & Birchwood, M. (2013). Designing youth mental health services for the 21st century: Examples from Australia, Ireland and the UK. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(s54), s30–s35. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.112.119214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. McVey, G. L., Walker, S. K., Beyers, J., Harrison, H., Russell-Mayhew, M. S., & Simkins, S. (2013). Integrating weight bias awareness and mental health promotion into obesity prevention delivery: A public health pilot study. CDC; Journal: Preventing Chronic Disease, 10, E54. doi:10.5888/pcd10.120185.Google Scholar
  9. Stice, E., Becker, C. B., & Yokum, S. (2013). Eating disorder prevention: Current evidence-base and future directions. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46, 478–485. doi:10.1002/eat.22105.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Wilksch, S. M. (2014). Where did universal eating disorder prevention go? Eating Disorders, 22, 184–192. doi:10.1080/10640266.2013.864889.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Wilksch, S. M. (2015). School-based eating disorder prevention: A pilot effectiveness trial of teacher-delivered Media Smart. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 9(1), 21–28. doi:10.1111/eip.12070.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Yager, Z., Diedrichs, P. C., Ricciardelli, L. A., & Halliwell, E. (2013). What works in secondary schools? A systematic review of classroom-based body image programs. Body Image, 10, 271–281. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.04.001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ontario Community Outreach Program for Eating DisordersUniversity Health NetworkTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada