The move by Vogue magazines to no longer work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder is a big step in the right direction, the head of a Canadian eating disorder organization says.

"Really, for them to come this far is huge," said Dr. Robbie Campbell, associate professor of psychiatry at Western University in London, Ont., and president of the Eating Disorder Foundation of Canada.

"It's a move toward healthy modelling, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, healthy habits, healthy temperament, which all leads to a healthy body image.

On Thursday, Condé Nast International, the publisher of Vogue magazines, announced that 19 editors of magazines around the world made the pact to project the image of healthy models.

But the new policy only applies to Vogue magazines. A spokeswoman said there no current plans to implement these guidelines across the company to include other magazines like Glamour and Allure.

Still, Campbell said the Vogue magazines should be praised for taking that first step.

"They're making a huge effort and we should applaud them."

Campbell slammed the use of some of the models in magazines who portray a "sick image for our well girls to try and identify with. It's horrid."

Problems remain

Campbell said there are still problems within the 16- to 18-year age group as well and that Vogue's guidelines should consider using older models and factor in their body mass index (BMI). He said 75 per cent of girls suffering from anorexia have a BMI of 17.5.

"I would rather them be 18 years old with an 18.5 BMI."

But he still offered high praise for the efforts by "an international consortium, who thrive on promoting thinness, who thrive on promoting unwellness."

Campbell said the images of models in those magazines are a major contributing factor to eating disorders. But other factors also play a role, including genetics, relationship issues, personality factors, and mental health issues such as depression, bipolar illness and obsessive compulsive disorder.

"All these things are part of the big picture. You can't say it's one thing. But the media is driving the one thing that seems to keep it in front of us all the time. So actually the media serves as a constant trigger as we're trying to move these girls toward wellness."

Campbell said it's estimated that around two million women suffer from eating disorders in Canada.