HARRISBURG – June 17, 2019 —State Senator Steve Santarsiero, state Representative Tom Murt, Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health for Pennsylvania, Joey Julius, former football kicker for the Penn State Nittany Lions, and representatives from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), all came together at the State Capitol Building on Tuesday to discuss Senate Bill 324 and House Bill 837, legislation addressing eating disorder parental education.
This legislation would require schools to annually supply educational information to parents with children in 5th-12th grades on the harmful and potentially fatal effects of eating disorders. Additionally, local school boards would participate in creating guidelines for an optional eating disorder screening program and appropriate opt-out and exemption procedures.
“Eating disorders affect all aspects of a person’s health. Children younger and younger are expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies and worries of weight gain,” Sen. Santarsiero said. “These are serious health conditions that we should be addressing head on, but parents first need to know the best way to do so and our schools are a key resource.”
“Let me state categorically,” Rep. Murt said. “Eating disorders are real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships.”
Dr. Levine offered her medical expertise on the topic.
“Eating disorders are serious health conditions that can affect individuals of any gender, age, race, ethnicity, or lifestyle,” Dr. Levine said. “The prevalence of eating disorders has continued to increase and is one of the top five most common illnesses among American teens. It is essential that everyone, especially parents, know the signs and symptoms of eating disorders so we can help connect those who are suffering with the support they need.”
The legislators have been working closely with representatives from NEDA in the development of this legislation.
“NEDA is grateful to Senator Santarsiero and Representative Murt for their leadership of this important legislation, which could have a life-saving impact across Pennsylvania by increasing awareness and providing parents with resources on how to recognize eating disorders. While eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, recovery is possible with appropriate treatment, and the earlier an individual gets treatment, the better their chances for a strong recovery,” said Kerry Donohue, Public Policy Manager for NEDA.
Emily Rosenburg, a volunteer advocate for NEDA for several years, also spoke of her personal experiences battling eating disorders.
“This is my fifth year advocating for this initiative. Every year I have had the honor of sharing my story with an eating disorder and educating more and more legislators about eating disorders awareness and early intervention,” Emily Rosenburg said. “My hope this year is for the legislators to see the impact this legislation can have for the thousands of families in Pennsylvania.”
The full text of Senate Bill 324 can be found here.
The full text of House Bill 837 can be found here.
Video of Sen. Santarsiero’s remarks can be found here.