Eating Disorders Activists Are Changing Pennsylvania

penn advocacy
emily r photo 2_0

Emily Rosenberg

This past National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, advocates and educators came together to bring about many firsts for the state of Pennsylvania. It was the first year that a governor declared a proclamation recognizing National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 25th to March 4th, 2018. Also, the first eating disorder seminar, led by Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine and the Department of Health occurred on the same day. It was an exciting day for eating disorder advocates!

Advocates gathered on the steps of the rotunda in Pennsylvania’s state capitol to hear the first ever Governor’s proclamation in a press conference led by the Physician General. The reading of the proclamation came after speeches from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and survivors of eating disorders. 

Every individual who spoke at the press conference spoke not only of the struggle and hardship of an eating disorder, but of the hope and recovery that can come from more awareness and education. The advocates left feeling empowered and strong to go on their day to meet with legislators to request support of important legislation. 

It has been five years that advocates have been returning to the capitol to request support for a bill that would require public schools to provide parents of students from grades 5 to 12 with educational information on eating disorders. For some advocates, this was the fifth time coming but for many others this was their first experience sharing their stories aloud. The advocates were divided into teams, each supported by veteran leader. 

Each team was equipped with talking points about the bill and why is was important, but the key to persuading the legislators came from personal stories that were shared. The legislators work for the betterment of their constituents and genuinely want to help people. It was a brief time to meet with legislators as the seminar was the highlight of the day, but each advocate finished with pride and joy of the strength they had to come out today and share one’s eating disorder story. 

The Eating Disorder Awareness Seminar took place in the State Museum of Pennsylvania. The seminar was to address the importance of eating disorders awareness and access to care. The seminar was free and open to anybody looking to increase their knowledge of eating disorders. The audience was made up of educators, counselors, school nurses, health professionals in pediatrics and family medicine, state agency and legislative employees, and eating disorders survivors and advocates. 

There were two panels, the first being about eating disorder awareness and early intervention. The panel was made up of eating disorder physicians from across the state as well as NEDA’s Director of Programs, Lauren Smolar. The panelists each had the opportunity to talk about their experiences with individuals and their families and the importance of early intervention. This was followed by was an audience Q&A, giving guests the opportunities to ask any general or specific questions to the panelists. 

The second panel’s topic was access to care and payment for eating disorders. Two of the panelists represented treatment centers while the other two came from the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance and Department of Human Services. The panelist gave an in-depth discussion on the how to gain access to treatment and how to manage and difficulties with insurance. The panel was also followed by an audience Q&A. 

The seminar wrapped up a very long but impactful day for eating disorder advocates. As stated before, the day gave the state many firsts, but with continued support and fight, not its last!