February 2020 Sensitivity Training

By: Malerie Razzis

West Virginia University

This past February, the Healing Bodies, Healthy Babies research team was able to conduct their very first sensitivity training.  There were months of preparation prior to the first session with considerable work from team members including Zoya Khan, Caterina DeFazio, Taylor Shultz, Oghenerukeme Asagba, and Hattie Rowe.  During Summer 2019, the team worked in the WV STEPS lab to film examples of patient-clinician interactions.  These videos have been made available for the public to view on Youtube.  Prior to the first sensitivity training, all members of the Healing Bodies, Healthy Babies team also underwent the sensitivity training. 

The sensitivity training that was developed for the clinicians provided various clinical strategies that would be reasonable to integrate into their daily treatment of patients, particularly those with eating disorders and pregnancy.  Previous studies have laid some groundwork about the prevalence and characteristics of eating disorders in pregnancy, indicating a greater need for clinical understanding of eating disorder symptomatology and appropriate screening tools to be incorporated into prenatal and postpartum care.  Pregnant women with a history of eating disorders or an active eating disorder have a greater risk of giving birth to a child with lower birth weight, smaller head circumference, microcephaly, and small for gestational age (Kouba, Hällström, Lindholm, & Hirschberg, 2005).  Due to these health risks, it is important for clinicians to learn how to properly treat patients with eating disorders.  

A questionnaire was administered prior to the sensitivity training, as well as after the completion of the sensitivity training.  Prior to training, only 76% of clinicians indicated that a patient’s eating disorder history would be extremely relevant to their treatment.  Upon the end of training, this number increased to 96% of clinicians indicating that it would be extremely relevant to their treatment.  When asked about their comfort when treating patients with eating disorders, 61% of clinicians expressed being less than comfortable providing treatment.  After undergoing the sensitivity training, this number shifted to 84% of clinicians indicating that they were either somewhat comfortable or extremely comfortable with treating patients with eating disorders.  These results were promising to the Healing Bodies, Healthy Babies team.

Since this was the first sensitivity training, the results are preliminary.  “I am hopeful that once we conduct more trainings, we will have more data to analyze!  This will allow us to investigate the significance of our data and how the sensitivity training can be implemented to better aid clinicians,” reported Zoya Khan.  Khan is an undergraduate student that is an active member of the Healing Bodies, Healthy Babies team.  She would like to be able to administer the sensitivity training to a variety of clinicians including physicians, physician assistants, nurses, etc. in the future.  “Every person has a unique insight to offer, which will allow us to determine how we can provide clinicians with resources to treat patients with eating disorders,” she says.   Another goal that she has for the team is to continue developing free resources that are made available on the Healing Bodies, Healthy Babies website.  “I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Claydon and the rest of the Healing Bodies, Healthy Babies team!”


Khan, ZA, DeFazio, C, Claydon, EA. “An evaluation of weight sensitivity training for clinicians” Poster presentation at the Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium, Morgantown, WV, April 2020.

Kouba S, Hällström T, Lindholm C, Hirschberg AL. Pregnancy and Neonatal Outcomes in Women With Eating Disorders. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2005;105(2):255-260. doi:10.1097/01.aog.0000148265.90984.c3.