State lawmakers this week unveiled bipartisan legislation that would require school districts to share information about eating disorders with parents in fifth through 12th grades.
House Bill 1959 includes guidelines that would allow school boards to voluntarily develop an eating disorder screening program, specify training requirements for personnel and volunteers and provide the framework for parental notification procedures in the event of a positive indication of an eating disorder.
"This legislation would go a long way in helping parents understand that an eating disorder can take many forms across different ages," said Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks). "Whether it’s a student-athlete trying to gain or lose weight or a student who is singled out by peers because of a weight problem, it’s important that parents and school officials have an open dialogue to help identify and intercede in such affairs should it become necessary."
In the U.S., 20 million women and 1 million men suffer from eating disorders at some point in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. In Pennsylvania, nearly 300,000 women and more than 130,000 men suffer from an eating disorder, according to information from Santarsiero's office.
In a news conference Wednesday to discuss the bill, Santarsiero was joined by fellow lawmakers, including Sens. Chuck McIlhinney, (R-Bucks), and Daylin Leach, (D-Montgomery/Delaware). Representatives from the National Eating Disorder Association and Pennsylvanians who have struggled with an eating disorder or know a family member who has also joined the state lawmakers..
"Those who suffer from eating disorders face serious consequences in every phase of life, and victims may go months or even years before the signs and symptoms are recognized," McIlhinney said. "The introduction of these measures is the first step in the journey to help steer these individuals toward a happier and healthier life."
"This is an exciting day for Pennsylvania and for all those impacted by eating disorders," said National Eating Disorders Association President and CEO Lynn Grefe. "I am grateful for the support of Representative Santarsiero, Senator McIlhinney and Senator Leach, and for their leadership in bringing attention to the seriousness of eating disorders."