Alumni Update: Katie Babbott
Katie Babbott who graduated from Pinehurst School in 2012 has always been puzzled by the lack of attention given to eating disorders, and the risk factors that come before diagnosis. It was an assignment she did in her Year 12 Psychology class that alerted her to this.
Katie recently finished her Masters in Social Science at the University of Waikato, evaluating the efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the treatment of subclinical disordered eating. In November 2018 she teamed up with Michaela Latimer who had a shared vision in helping people develop a healthy and healing relationship with food and body and they launched their not-for-profit organisation, Āhei.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet the precursory behaviour (dieting, counting calories, over-exercising), although distressing, is something that is praised in our society. A lack of help for those with moderate eating concerns suggests they're not worth attention until it reaches desperation stage. This is an erroneous assumption, as individuals who wait to seek help face significantly poorer outcomes, often developing serious eating disorders, which require intensive treatments and are ultimately much more costly on both a personal and financial level. Katie and Michaela believe that Āhei can be a solution to this problem.
They work out of empirically proven frameworks, including Te Whare Tapa Wha, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Health at Every Size, and Intuitive Eating. They have partnered with regional health services, local iwi and health providers to help Āhei have a wide-reaching impact. Their longer-term intention is to develop school-based programmes working with young people at their most vulnerable age for developing disordered eating.
Things are still very new and continue to evolve with each month that goes by, but they have been blown away by the response. Most notably so when Katie was recently in Wellington sharing a little bit about Āhei with the PM and the Ministry for Women, and they are now looking at how to use their learnings to inform the government’s wellness strategy for the next few years.
“It's exciting to think about where the next few years will take us. I'm thankful to have had a teacher like Ms Mills at Pinehurst who saw potential and inspired confidence in me, and instilled a love of people, science, and research.” – Katie Babbott