Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Act: Still Not a Reality

by Mary K. Stein, Managing Editor
Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2001 Volume 12, Number 3
©2001 Gürze Books

House Bill 3928, introduced in Congress last spring, would have enabled states and local agencies to use federal funds to develop their own eating disorders awareness and prevention programs (see EDR, May/June 2000). The bill also calls for a national public awareness campaign. The information campaign, specifically targeted at teens and young adults, would warn of the dangers presented by eating disorders.

This January, Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), who wrote and introduced the original bill, reintroduced the amended bill as H.R. 46, “The Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Act of 2001,” in the 107th Congress. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, where it languishes on hold, at least for the time being.

Why the Delay?

Chris Close, Rep. Biggert’s press secretary, reports that most of the House of Representatives’ attention is currently focused on President Bush’s Education Program, a fact that has delayed hearings on H.R. 46. Close added that one positive change that might help the amended bill move forward came when Rep. Biggert became a member of the Education Committee.

The bill has been slightly amended, but it is still designed to amend title VI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, to raise awareness of eating disorders and to create educational programs concerning eating disorders and for other purposes. The bill specifically mentions increasing awareness of eating disorders among parents and students and developing programs to train educators (such as teachers, school nurses, school social workers, coaches, school counselors and administrators).

States and local municipalities would be allowed to use federal funds to develop and design their own eating disorders awareness and prevention programs. These programs could include teacher training programs, programs to develop role modeling, and mentoring programs. Funding would come from expansion of the allowable uses of the Innovative Education Strategic Block Grant program.

As the bill states, “The purposes of the act are (1) to provide states, local school districts and parents with the means and flexibility to improve awareness of, identify, and help students with eating disorders” and (2) to help ensure that such individuals receive a quality education and secure their chance for a bright future.”

Public Service Announcements

Another portion of the bill calls for public service announcements, directing the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of health “to carry out a program to develop, distribute, and promote the broadcasting of public service announcements to improve public awareness and to promote the identification and prevention of eating disorders.

The bill also requests that a study be conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Center for Health Statistics no more than 18 months after the bill is enacted. The goal would be to evaluate the impact of eating disorders on educational advancement and achievement. The hope is to evaluate the extent to which students with eating disorders are more likely to miss school have delayed rates of development, or state and local programs to educate youth about the dangers of eating disorders as well as to evaluate the value of such programs. Finally, the study will make recommendations on measures that Congress, and the Department of Education, states, and local educational agencies can undertake to strengthen eating disorder prevention and awareness programs.

Mary K. Stein

Managing Editor

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