Proud2Bme | I Helped Create a Bill for Eating Disorders Education

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I Helped Create a Bill for Eating Disorders Education

By Emily Rosenberg--Many men and women suffer with their eating disorders in silence. I knew the value of talking about what my eating disorder meant in my life. That’s what led me to be an advocate and to pursue legislation that would expand eating disorders education in my home state of Pennsylvania.

I chose to create an education bill because I believe education is the most important thing in preventing eating disorders. Maybe my six years of suffering could have been shortened if more education was in place at my high school and made available to those around me. The earlier someone is recognized as suffering from an eating disorder, the easier the recovery process. I do not use the word ‘easier’ lightly; I personally know that recovery is a hard journey. But the longer someone has suffered, the more the thoughts become ingrained. Advocating became important for me because I want to break stigmas and stereotypes. I want to prove to myself and to others that there is more in life when you allow yourself to be free from your eating disorder.

I first began the legislative process by finding a representative who would be a good fit to sponsor the bill. Since I wanted to create an education bill, I sought out a representative who was assigned to an education committee. I contacted members on both the House and Senate side to see if they would be interested in introducing this bill because a bill needs to be passed on both the House and Senate side before going into effect. Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R) and Representative Steve Santarsiero (D), both from Newtown, PA, agreed to sponsor the bill.

Once I had the initial sponsors, I reached out to NEDA’s STAR (Solutions Through Advocacy and Reform) manager and over the course of many conference calls, we began to write the bill as a team.

We formulated a bill that was very similar to one that passed in Virginia in March of 2013. It would require schools in Pennsylvania to send home a one-page letter to parents of students in grades five through twelve that provides information about eating disorders. Schools would also have the option of doing a school screening administered by a knowledgeable eating disorders professional.

After the bill was finalized, the sponsors on both sides introduced it to the entire House and Senate. Two months later, we held a press conference, where I spoke about why the bill was important to me, along with the sponsors, my high school health teacher, and a parent who lost her daughter to an eating disorder. Together, we urged the Education Committee to hold hearings.

The press conference helped bring attention to the bill and gave other legislators, and the public, an opportunity to learn about the bill, as well as eating disorders in general. The press conference was followed by a lobby day for constituents to speak with legislators and ask them to support our bill.

In the coming week, the Democratic House Policy Committee will hold a hearing for our bill. This hearing will consist of testimonies from eating disorder experts, family members, and individuals who have suffered. It will be a chance to help legislators understand why this piece of legislation needs to be implemented.

I have been working on this bill for eight months now and have enjoyed the process. Every small step that legislators have taken has felt like a victory. Every step we take is a step in breaking the silence of eating disorders. Being an active participant advocating for eating disorders has been more rewarding than I could have imagined, and the gratitude I have received from others is overwhelming.

It is one thing to recover from an eating disorder; it is another thing to be able to share my story to help others reach recovery and to prevent an eating disorder from taking away the fun and joy of another child’s life.

For more information about how YOU can get involved and become an eating disorders advocate, visit our Action Center or contact STAR@myneda.org.

About the author: Emily is a senior at American University in Washington, D.C. She plans to pursue a career in the medical field working with children. Emily enjoys volunteering her time with various eating disorder and empowerment organizations, helping others live fulfilling lives. She loves exploring new places, running, and reading a good book while sipping a Starbucks Frappuccino.

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