Amazing and inspiring efforts are continually being made to erase and eradicate eating disorders and to raise awareness about their deadly effects. Just last week a group of teenagers from Boulder went to Washington, DC to lobby and testify before Congress in support of the FREED Act (Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders)! Staggering statistics they are fighting against: 45% of girls and boys in elementary schools want to be thinner and and 9% of nine-year-olds have purged in order to lose weight. That’s NINE year olds!! Reality is hard enough when you are older….to be thinking about weight loss and hurting your bodies at age nine is a tragedy. Watch this local news video to learn more about the Boulder teens’ efforts in front of Congress (they got to meet with some pretty fascinating and powerful people!):
So what is the FREED Act exactly? This Act was conceptualized in February 2009 by the Eating Disorders Coalition, which is a group based out of Washington, DC whose mission is “to advance the federal recognition of eating disorders as a public policy priority.” It is the first comprehensive legislative effort introduced in the Senate to confront the seriousness of eating disorders and to jump start research and advance the treatment, prevention, diagnosis, screening, and awareness of these diseases. It also brings attention to the lack of initiative on the part of insurance companies to recognize the seriousness of these diseases and to increase coverage for treatment.
This is revolutionary! The bill, put to the Senate by Congressman Patrick Kennedy, strongly commands attention to the devastation of eating disorders and outlines a plan for education and prevention initiatives — some of which include: studying the “why” and the effects of mandatory BMI reporting in schools; a grant program for training all types of health professionals about eating disorders; plans for educating the public about EDs through public services announcements; and bringing eating disorders into already existing initiatives about obesity (this one I find very interesting as there is a stigma about obesity and eating disorders and we need to understand their link and how both can be prevented). The awareness piece involves educating professionals and the public about the death rates of eating disorders (not spotlighted clearly or often enough), providing care according to universally accepted criteria, and having the bottom-line assertion that “all Americans with eating disorders deserve care”.
A blog that I read wrote last year about the FREED Act, and pointed out that the National Institute of Health (NIH) allows “$1.20 per person towards research for those with eating disorders compared to the $159 per person towards research for those dealing with schizophrenia — a disease whose prevalence is significantly less than those affected by eating disorders”. This statistic underlines the fact that research and effort into understanding eating disorders is considerably lacking as composed to other types of disorders, and their death rates are often higher than those other disorders’. The FREED Act currently has bipartisan support and hopefully will pass! In 2009, the bill had 20 sponsors and 44 different local and national organizations wrote a letter to Congress in support of the act! Now is your opportunity to act as well!!
What can you do? You can write a letter to Congress by writing your local Representative at this link. You can check out the inspiring work of the Boulder Youth Body Alliance and attend a talk on April 25th at 6:00pm on the Naropa University Campus where you can “come hear our youth talk about their experiences of advocating for the FREED Act (Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders) in Washington DC. They will talk about the bill, what they’ve learned, and three will share their speeches from the Congressional Briefing.”
Now is the time for the change that will save lives!