Healthy Support

What does a chatbot know about eating disorders? Users of a help line are about to find out

This article is from a partnership that includes Michigan RadioNPR, and KFF Health News. 

For more than 20 years, the National Eating Disorders Association has operated a phone line and online platform for people seeking help for anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. Last year, nearly 70,000 individuals used the help line.

NEDA shuttered that service in May, saying that, in its place, a chatbot called Tessa, designed by eating disorder experts with funding from NEDA, would be deployed.

When NPR aired a report about this last month, Tessa was up and running online. Since then, both the chatbot’s page and a NEDA article about Tessa have been taken down. When asked why, NEDA said the bot is being “updated,” and the latest “version of the current program [will be] available soon.”

Then NEDA announced on May 30 that it was indefinitely disabling Tessa. Patients, families, doctors,

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