Hope House can use your help in targeting eating disorders

Published February 23, 2007

Pauline Powers has taught University of South Florida medical students and residents about eating disorders for three decades, but in recent years she's seen a change in her classes.

Students are more attentive and ask more questions. The level of interest and engagement is higher than it's ever been.


"Because they all know somebody that has an eating disorder," Powers explained. "Their sisters, their girlfriends, their friends' girlfriends; they all knew someone."

The anecdote backs what statistics bear out: 10-million Americans suffer from life-threatening eating disorders, and the numbers are rising.

Powers has spent a lifetime working with patients and teaching, but in some ways, she's just beginning.

Her latest effort is as the director and driving force behind Hope House, a USF community project that will establish a comprehensive outpatient program for eating disorders. Based on another facility, Sheena's Place in Toronto, it will be the first of its kind in the United States.

"We've been worried that so few people can access treatment for eating disorders, and worried about the increase in the number of those who have eating disorders," said Powers, the founding president of the Academy for Eating Disorders. "What we will provide are education and outreach, and early intervention and supplemental intervention."

The facility will be located on the corner of Bay-to-Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard, and the services will be free because of the concerns about treatment costs.

Powers estimates the cost of treating one person is $100,000, and insurance companies often decline to pay for eating disorder treatments.

Initial funding for Hope House comes largely from a three-year, $460,000 grant from the Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation, but the house must become self-sufficient.

On March 2, Hope House is having a fundraiser at the Cuban Club. Silent and live auction items will be available, including artwork, lithographs, Yankees spring training suite seats and a weekend stay at a New Orleans French Quarter condo for the city's annual jazz festival.

It's a worthy cause, given the rise in eating disorder patients. Powers said the increasing emphasis on obesity combined with too-thin media images are contributing factors, but Powers remains encouraged. The fashion industry is beginning to stress a healthier look.

Powers pumps her fists and says, "I love that woman" when she talks about the more curvaceous look being sported by model/television host Tyra Banks.

Powers also is encouraged by medical advances. She and other colleagues believe eating disorders can go the way of polio in the next 25 years, but she wants to make sure treatment becomes more available.

"Tampa is at a crossroads in eating disorder education, prevention, research and early intervention," Powers said. "But I know people can get better."

I know we can help.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at hooper@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3406.

If you go

Tampa at the Crossroads

What: A fundraiser for Hope House.

When: March 2, 6-8 p.m.

Where: The Cuban Club, 2010 N Republic De Cuba Ave.

Details: Cocktails, hors d' oeuvres, silent and live auction, entertainment by Impromptu.

For more information: Call (813) 340-1729.