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Virginia becomes first state to enact eating disorder education law

March 29, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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On March 25, Governor Bob McDonnell signed HB 1406, requiring all public schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia to annually provide parents of students in grades five-12 with educational information on eating disorders. Effective July 1, 2013, Virginia will be the first state to require distribution of this information to parents of children in this highly susceptible age range.

Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) commented, “NEDA’s Advocacy Program and our families led the way for this victory. It is a win-win for the field of eating disorders and the families in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is our hope that other states will follow this forward-thinking effort and that the legislation will serve as a model for the rest of the country. “

Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and impact every organ system in the body.  Early detection is key in preventing these potentially life-threatening illnesses and reducing mortality.

HB 1406 requires:

  • The Virginia Departments of Education and Health to jointly develop guidelines and implement policies for providing parent education information on eating disorders.
  • The Departments to consult the NEDA, as well as medical and education specialists, about the contents of delivery of the required information. 
  • The Departments to jointly develop guidelines for a voluntary eating disorder screening program. Those school boards that wish to implement an eating disorder screening program for their students will now be empowered with the tools necessary to do so. 

Pursuant to HB 1406, the Departments of Education and Health must provide their guidelines to the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction for dissemination by no later than July 1, 2013.  This ambitious deadline assures that Virginia’s public school students, and their parents, will be educated about eating disorders during the upcoming 2013 – 2014 school year.