March 25, 2013 marked a milestone for eating disorder awareness and education. Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia signed a bill into law that will provide parental education and voluntary school screenings for eating disorders throughout the state of Virginia. The law will go into effect July 2013, making it possible for schools to begin educating parents of students in grades 5-12 as early as the 2013-2014 school year. Education topics will include signs and symptoms of eating disorders and steps to take if you suspect that your child has an eating disorder. The Virginia Departments of Education and Health will also be working together to develop guidelines for a voluntary eating disorder screening program should a school board choose to implement one in their district.
This will be the first piece of legislation requiring public schools to provide parents with educational material about eating disorders. It is my hope, along with NEDA’s STAR Program (Solutions Through Advocacy and Reform), that this victory will spark an interest in policy makers around the country and eventually lead to increased support of eating disorder education and treatment. The more informed parents and loved ones are about the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, the more likely they will be to seek treatment on behalf of their child.
Early detection of eating disorders or behaviors that could lead to an eating disorder is crucial. Thankfully, the state of Virginia is making strides to ensure that parents are knowledgeable of and alert to warning signs that their child may be suffering from an eating disorder. For more information about this effort or to learn how you can get involved with NEDA’s Solutions Through Advocacy and Reform (STAR) Program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
~Ashlee Overstreet, Supervisor of Dietetic Services