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BUCKS COUNTY – December 15, 2021 – State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10) has introduced SB 988, a bill to raise awareness of the devastating mental and physical effects of eating disorders.  The bill would require schools to annually provide educational information to parents with children in 6th-12th grades about eating disorders and resources to help overcome them.

“Eating disorders exist across the broad spectrum of age, race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomics affecting more than 30 million Americans,” Sen. Santarsiero said. “As we see younger children expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies and worries of weight gain, it’s important to equip parents early with up-to-date information and local resources on this condition.”

The bill would also direct the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Health, to develop a task force, which would develop guidelines for providing parent educational information regarding eating disorders.

“Eating disorders often present themselves in children and adolescents, with the best hope for recovery attached to early identification and intervention”, said Martha Watson, Pennsylvania resident and advocate in memory of her daughter. “By providing parents and schools with tools to identify an eating disorder early and resources to help intervene, this bill will definitely save lives. I am passionate about raising awareness and understanding of eating disorders, as I lost my own daughter to an eating disorder. She was diagnosed at the age of 11, but sadly the eating disorder was already entrenched and though we fought a valiant 10 year battle, we lost her. I don’t want other families to have the same outcome, so I have become a passionate advocate for raising awareness and understanding about eating disorders.” 

Representative Jason Ortitay (R-46) has introduced a similar bill in the House, HB 2158.

“Data, especially in recent months, has shown that social media has a negative effect on young people and contributes to increased body dissatisfaction and eating disorders,” Rep. Ortitay said. “With the growing use of social media, we need to take steps to bring attention to this issue. Many parents may not recognize the warning signs of an eating disorder. I’m hopeful this legislation will give parents the information they need and also help them recognize negative body image messages in society today.”

“Eating disorders wreak havoc on Pennsylvania families, the local economy, and the already-overburdened medical system. With this legislation, parents and school leadership will be better equipped to recognize when eating disorders present themselves and to refer youth for appropriate care”, stated Johanna Kandel, National Alliance for Eating Disorders’ Founder/CEO. “Not one more life should be stolen by this insidious disease. The National Alliance for Eating Disorders strongly urges the Pennsylvania legislature to swiftly pass SB 988/HB 2158 because students deserve better.” 

“I have been passionately working with PA legislators on this bill over the years to raise awareness of the serious nature of eating disorders, said Emily Rosenberg, Pennsylvania resident, advocate and eating disorder survivor.  “My hope is for parents and guardians to become educated on eating disorders to help with early identification and prevent long-term suffering. As a survivor, I use my voice and lived experience to educate and bring hope to those struggling by sharing the message that recovery is possible. Eating disorders are not a choice and nobody deserves a life with one.  I did not give up on my recovery and I will not give up the fight to pass this needed legislation.” 

Both SB 988 and HB 2158 have been referred to their chamber’s respective Education Committee for consideration.