Two bills introduced by state Sen. Steven Santarsiero, D-10, and Rep. Tom Murt, R-152, would require schools to provide eating disorder educational materials to parents of students in fifth through 12th grades.
New legislation from two area lawmakers seeks to educate parents of public school students about the risks and warning signs of eating disorders.
The bills from State Sen. Steven Santarsiero, D-10, of Lower Makefield, and Rep. Tom Murt, R-152, of Upper Moreland, would require educational materials on eating disorders be provided to parents each year.
Senate Bill 324 and House Bill 837 were introduced last Tuesday in Harrisburg with support from representatives of the National Eating Disorders Association, state’s Department of Health and others.
“Children younger and younger are expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies and worries of weight gain,” Santarsiero said during a press conference in the state Capitol building.
In their current drafts, both bills would require schools start providing information to parents beginning at fifth grade and continue through high school.
“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,” Santarsiero added.
Symptoms of bulimia nervosa, anorexia and other disorders are occurring earlier in life for both males and females, according to information online provided by the National Eating Disorders Association.
The association worked with Stevens and Murt on both bills focused on recognizing and treating disorders, Kerry Donohue, public policy manager for NEDA, said during the press conference.
If passed, the health department and the state’s Department of Education would work together on implementing the program statewide.
While spreading awareness of eating disorders is the primary focus of the bills, the proposed laws could also establish an “optional eating disorder screening program,” as well as parental notification rules.
Murt added eating disorders are a complex mental health issue that “can have serious consequences for health, productivity and relationships.”
“The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery,” Murt said in a sponsorship memo earlier this year.
Health department secretary Dr. Rachel Levin added eating disorders are now among the top five most common illnesses among teenagers nationwide.
More information about eating disorders and treatment can be found at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org or calling NEDA’s helpline at 1-800-931-2237.