by Cynthia Bulik, PhD
NCEED Director, Dr. Christine Peat, and CEED Founding Director, Dr. Cynthia Bulik, were busy over the past two months conducting Congressional briefings on topics relevant to individuals with eating disorders.
On July 28th, Dr. Christine Peat participated in a briefing sponsored by the Eating Disorders Coalition entitled, “COVID-19 and Eating Disorders: How Untreated Eating Disorders Impact Americans, Medicare and the Economy.” The briefing was sponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Sen Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and you can view the entire briefing here. Dr. Peat discussed the collaborative research conducted by UNC, NCEED, and the Leiden University in the Netherlands (Termorshuizen, 2020) documenting the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with eating disorders and the proactive steps that NCEED has taken to develop and disseminate information about dealing with the pandemic for individuals with eating disorders and their families and clinicians treating people with eating disorders. She also emphasized eating disorders among middle-aged and elderly adults. The briefing was in support of the Nutrition Care Act focuses on ensuring that Medicare Part B puts outpatient eating disorders medical nutrition therapy at parity with other illnesses such as end stage renal disease and diabetes.
She was joined by Dr. Bryn Austin, Director of Strategic Initiative for Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) who discussed the new Deloitte Report about the impact of eating disorders on the US economy, Dr. Margo Maine, who discussed eating disorders in midlife, Grace Schumacher, RDN, Founder Nutrition Partnership in Alaska, and Ms. Anne Gross who shared her personal journey with treatment for anorexia nervosa.
In September, Dr. Bulik participated in a second briefing sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association focused on the Eating Disorders Prevention in Schools Act in conjunction with the Congressional Mental Health Caucus and supported by Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12) & Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-04). That briefing can be viewed in its entirety here. Dr. Bulik provided additional information on the follow-ups to the COVID-19 study discussed by Dr. Peat, showing ongoing challenges being faced by individuals with eating disorders as the pandemic evolves. She also illustrated the dearth of counselors, school psychologists, and dietitians involved in school wellness programs and warned about the potential for school-based programs focusing on nutrition education and obesity prevention to inadvertently encourage eating disorders. She was joined by three compelling speakers who emphasized the adverse impact that weight stigmatization can have on health and well-being. Dr. Lily O’Hara from Qatar University, Athena Nair a Tufts University student and Body Positive Activist, and Jameela Jamil, actor and Founder of I Weigh, all converged to emphasize the importance of eliminating weight stigmatization and attending not only to physical wellness but also to mental wellness in schools.
The Eating Disorders Coalition and the National Eating Disorders Association are actively working toward improving access to care and ensuring that schools are an integral part of eating disorders prevention efforts. We invite you to view these briefings and make sure that your senators and representatives are aware of these important bipartisan initiatives.
Termorshuizen, JD, Watson, HJ, Thornton, LM, et al. Early impact of COVID‐19 on individuals with self‐reported eating disorders: A survey of ~1,000 individuals in the United States and the Netherlands. Int J Eat Disord. 2020; 53: 1780– 1790. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23353