April 27, 2010
Harkin, Klobuchar, Franken Introduce Bill to Confront Eating Disorders in the U.S.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation today aimed at fighting and preventing eating disorders in the United States. The Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders (FREED) Act is the first comprehensive legislative effort introduced in the Senate to confront the seriousness of these diseases and to jump start research as well as improve the prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders. It expands federal research, improves tracking and recording of the actual numbers of people suffering and dying from these diseases, provides training for a wide array of health professionals and educators to better identify and screen for eating disorders, creates a new patient advocacy program to help patients get proper care, authorizes grants for eating disorder prevention programs and builds on the mental health parity and health care reform bills to improve access to treatment, particularly for teens covered by Medicaid.
“Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are widespread, insidious and too often fatal diseases. And adolescent women are by no means the only people suffering from eating disorders; these diseases don’t discriminate by gender, race, income or age,” said Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Sadly, these diseases touch the lives of so many of our families and friends. Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder. We have got to do a better job at the federal level of investing in research, treatment and prevention and the FREED Act is a major step in the right direction.”
“The statistics on young people struggling with eating disorders are staggering,” said Klobuchar. “We must provide better resources for prevention and treatment to ensure that everyone has access to the help they need to treat and survive this often fatal disease. I want to thank the Westin family for their tireless efforts to raise awareness of the need to combat this disease.”
“I hear far too often from Minnesotans who have dealt personally with a loved one who suffers from an eating disorder. The fact is, we don’t know nearly enough about diagnosing, treating, and preventing these diseases. Today’s legislation is a major step forward in understanding eating disorders and how to stop them from destroying lives,” said Franken.
“It’s been 10 years since anorexia killed my daughter Anna. And eating disorders have killed thousands of Americans since then,” said Kitty Westin, an eating disorder awareness advocate. “It’s time for Congress to pass FREED as a critical first step in addressing this national emergency.”
It is estimated that at least 5 million Americans suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. Because eating disorders so often go undiagnosed and untreated, the actual number of Americans suffering from eating disorders is closer to 11 million. Tremendous misperceptions about the severity of eating disorders impact the federal resources devoted to eating disorders. First, fatalities resulting from eating disorders are grossly underestimated because they are most often recorded by listing only the immediate cause of death (cardiac arrest, electrolyte imbalance, kidney failure, gastric rupture, pancreatitis or suicide) without reference to the underlying eating disorder. This underreporting is partially responsible for the fact that federal research dollars lag behind research of other diseases when measured by either the number of people affected or by the relative health consequences of eating disorders.
To confront the growing issue of eating disorders, the FREED Act will:
Expand research on the prevention of and effective treatment of eating disorders: Coordinates research on eating disorders at the National Institutes of Health and across the federal government, and creates research consortia to examine the causes and consequences of eating disorders, and to develop effective prevention and intervention programs.
Improve the training and education of health care providers and educators: Authorizes grants to medical, nursing, social work and other health professions schools to train health care providers in the identification and treatment of eating disorders, and grants to train teachers and other educators in effective eating disorder prevention, detection and assistance strategies.
Improve surveillance and data collection systems for tracking the prevalence and severity of eating disorders: Tasks CDC with addressing the lack of accurate information on the incidence and severity of eating disorders. Requires the development of new methods to accurately collect, analyze and report epidemiological data to ensure that the incidence of eating disorders and related fatalities are better understood.
Prevent eating disorders: Authorizes grants to develop evidence-based prevention programs and promote healthy eating behaviors and in schools, recreational sports programs and athletic training programs.
Build on existing reform efforts to ensure that treatment is available and affordable: Creates a patient advocacy program to aid people suffering from these diseases and their families negotiate the health care system. Incentivizes states to ensure that adolescents covered by Medicaid are diagnosed and treated.