Lawmakers in PA House Approve Bill to Increase Eating Disorder Awareness

The House passed legislation authored by Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) to increase eating disorder awareness for parents and students in grades six through 12.

“Social media has exacerbated unrealistic ideas about body size and image,” Ortitay said. “About 9% of the Commonwealth’s population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Eating disorders are most likely to start between the ages of 14 and 25. By educating middle and high school students and their parents, I am hopeful those who need help will be identified quickly in order for them to receive the assistance they need to recover.”

“We have seen a dramatic rise in eating disorders in children and parents are often caught off guard, discovering the problem only after serious complications,” said Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) applauding the House for passing the bill. “House Bill 148, which I originally proposed as House Bill 1959 in 2013, is identical to my bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 623, and would help parents prevent eating disorders in their children, provide the information to recognize the problem sooner and connect with resources for a full recovery.”

Ortitay introduced the bill after meeting with Martha Watson and Emily Rosenberg. Watson, an Allegheny County resident, lost her daughter to an eating disorder at the age of 21. Rosenberg, a Montgomery County resident, received the treatment to recover from an eating disorder and is working professionally to pass federal legislation to increase awareness, education, training and funding for eating disorders throughout the United States.

“I am excited to see this legislation finally progressing toward implementation; all efforts to raise awareness and provide education and resources about eating disorders that will ultimately result in saving lives,” said Watson. “Leveraging the school communities to make this information widely available makes sense. Like my family, thousands of families have lost sons and daughters to eating disorders that took hold at young ages. House Bill 148/Senate Bill 623 is vital legislation that will make a difference.”

“This legislation is particularly important to me because of my experience with an eating disorder in high school,” said Rosenberg. “It was an intrusive, relentless and unreasonable voice in my head, telling me I was never enough. No child is immune to developing an eating disorder, but these bills will significantly decrease the number of children affected. It has been ten years since I began advocating for this bill, and today, Senator Santarsiero’s, Representative Ortitay’s and my dedication, passion and time has paid off. Having passed in the House, I am highly optimistic it will move swiftly through the Senate and be sent to the governor’s desk and signed into law.”

“Adequate education can save years of suffering with an eating disorder,” said Tamie Gangloff, a Lancaster County resident and group facilitator for the National Alliance for Eating Disorders. “Research shows that earlier intervention reduces the need for a higher level of care and increases the likelihood of sustained long-term recovery. The National Alliance for Eating Disorders is honored to be a part of the conversation to provide Pennsylvania parents with dependable and trustworthy education on eating disorders.’

House Bill 148 would require schools to annually provide parents of students in grades six through 12 with educational information regarding eating disorders through email, first-class mail or the school district’s website. In addition, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) would be required to create the Eating Disorder Advisory Committee. It would be made up of stakeholders from education and eating disorder organizations. The committee would offer recommendations to PDE and the Department of Health on eating disorder awareness and education, including the types of warning signs of eating disorders, weight and body image disorder, excessive compulsive exercise and orthorexia nervosa.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.