Pennsylvania Legislators Push to Increase Awareness of Eating Disorders in Children

Representative Jason Ortitay and Senator Steve Santarsiero have introduced legislation to help increase awareness of eating disorders in children.

Representative Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) introduced legislation, House Bill 2158, to increase awareness about eating disorders in children.1,2

“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,” 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.” 

Under House Bill 2158, which was introduced in December, schools would be required to provide parents and guardians of students in grades 6 through 12 with information regarding eating disorders annually. Additionally, an eating disorder taskforce would be created within the Pennsylvania Department of Education that would develop guidelines for the information provided by the schools.

Pennsylvania legislators worked with eating disorder survivors to develop House Bill 2158, individuals like Emily Rosenberg.

“I have been passionately working with Pennsylvania legislators on this bill over the years to raise awareness of the serious nature of eating disorders. My hope is for parents and guardians to become educated on eating disorders to help with early identification and prevent long-term suffering,” said Rosenberg. “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.”

Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate.3 “Eating disorders exist across the broad spectrum of age, race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomics affecting more than 30 million Americans. 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,” said Santarsiero.

Martha Watson, a Pennsylvania resident and advocate, lost her 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,” said Watson. “By providing parents and schools with tools to identify an eating disorder early and resources to help intervene, this bill will definitely save lives.”

The founder and CEO of the National Alliance for Eating Disorders, Johanna Kandel, also supports both bills. “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. 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 House Bill 2158 and Senate Bill 988 because students deserve better.” 

House Bill 2158 has been referred to the House Education Committee for review. 

References

1. Ortitay proposal to require schools to raise awareness about eating disorders. News release. December 14, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2022. http://www.reportitay.com/News/22981/Latest-News/Ortitay-Proposal-to-Require-Schools-to-Raise-Awareness-about-Eating-Disorders-

2. Pennsylvania General Assembly: P.L.30, No.14.

3. Senator Santarsiero introduces legislation to help young Pennsylvanians and their families combat eating disorders. News release. December 15, 2021. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://www.senatorstevesantarsiero.com/senator-santarsiero-introduces-legislation-to-help-young-pennsylvanians-and-their-families-combat-eating-disorders/