Health professionals in St. John's announced a new program Wednesday to help people with eating disorders — a move applauded by families who've been affected by the illness.

The eating disorder interprofessional project, which will start in Corner Brook, aims to get health professionals like doctors, nutritionists, and social workers co-operating to help people with eating disorders. The professionals will be trained to recognize the early signs and try to co-ordinate preventive care.

Psychologist and Memorial University professor Olga Heath, the chair of the group that's developed the project, said there is still a lot of work to do. Statistics Canada estimates that about 7,500 people in the province are at risk for an eating disorder.

"And I would suggest to you that that's a serious underestimate. Most people with eating disorders do not readily admit that they're having problems with their eating," she said.

"What we do know is that fully a third of people with eating disorders are outside of the Avalon region, which is a significant number. It's a provincial problem," she said.

Wilf Curran, whose daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder 14 years ago, said he is convinced this program will be the answer for parents like him. He said he didn't know where to turn and he struggled to find the care his daughter needed.

"This is it. This is what we can tell people, This is what's going to open everybody's eyes," he said.

Some of the common signs of an eating disorder are weight loss, changes in eating and less frequent socializing, according to Heath.