An initial response comprises an initial assessment and preliminary diagnosis, and referral to the most appropriate treatment options based on the person’s psychological, physical, nutritional, and psychosocial needs. This may include facilitating access to an appropriate intervention for a person experiencing sub-threshold eating/body image concerns. An initial response should also provide psychoeducation, support the person to engage with treatment, and encourage the involvement of the person’s family/supports and community.

Where there is a wait to access treatment, or if the person is not yet ready to engage with treatment, the initial response may involve monitoring ongoing safety, providing education on harm reduction strategies, continuing to engage the person and their family/supports and community, and facilitating connections to peer support.

Prompt initial response, including access to an initial assessment, preliminary diagnosis, and referral to appropriate services, is important to ensure safety, prevent deterioration and provide the best chance for positive health and quality of life outcomes (1, 2, 3).

You can read more about early intervention here. For health professionals, learn more about identification including screening and assessment tools here

We encourage you to read the Initial Response section in the National Strategy for further information about areas of focus in initial response, as well as standards and actions for building this element of the system of care. Please see pages 45-48.

Click to read more about thStepped System of Care.


1. Austin A, Flynn M, Richards K, Hodsoll J, Duarte TA, Robinson P, et al. Duration of untreated eating disorder and relationship to outcomes: A systematic review of the literature. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2021 May;29(3):329-45.

2. Ambwani S, Cardi V, Albano G, Cao L, Crosby RD, Macdonald P, et al. A multicenter audit of outpatient care for adult anorexia nervosa: Symptom trajectory, service use, and evidence in support of “early stage” versus “severe and enduring” classification. Int J Eat Disord. 2020 Aug;53(8):1337-48.

3. Austin A, Flynn M, Shearer J, Long M, Allen K, Mountford VA, et al. The first episode rapid early intervention for eating disorders - upscaled study: Clinical outcomes. Early Interv Psychiatry. 2022 Jan;16(1):97-105.