Rep. Deutch Leads Bipartisan Effort to Boost Eating Disorders Research
Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) were joined by 46 of their House colleagues in writing to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge them to continue collecting information about high risk behaviors associated with eating disorders.
In 2015, CDC removed all eating disorders surveillance questions from their national surveys. In their letter, the Members ask CDC to add eating disorders questions to CDC’s national surveys to help researchers and policymakers better understand these deadly diseases.
"There is still so much that we don’t understand about eating disorders. What we do know is that as many as 30 million Americans will face a significant eating disorder at some time in their lives, and that eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness,” said Congressman Deutch. “CDC’s annual surveys can help us bridge the current research gap to improve prevention and treatment and, ultimately, to save lives.”
“Including eating disorders in the CDC’s national survey is a step in the right direction to understanding the mental health struggles that those with eating disorders face,” said Congressman Mullin. “Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder and binge eating disorder leads to obesity, which spurs the additional health risks that go along with unhealthy eating habits. It is high time that we make mental health a priority by tracking this data again so that we know best how to treat this population."
“The CDC’s health monitoring system is excellent – when the right questions are asked. But when important health conditions are overlooked, it leaves health researchers and clinicians ill-equipped to offer a public health response to affected communities,” said Dr. Bryn Austin, Director of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s STRIPED and Board President of the Eating Disorders Coalition. “With tens of millions of Americans affected and countless families losing loved ones to these deadly disorders every year, we can’t afford to leave eating disorders out of our nation’s surveillance system any longer.”
Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led thirteen of their Senate colleagues in a similar letter.
You can view the signed letter here. The text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Dr. Fitzgerald,
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, affecting 30 million Americans during their lifetime while every 62 minutes one person loses their life as a direct result. For these reasons we urge you to revise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national surveys to include and re-include surveillance questions on eating disorders.
While we applaud the CDC’s great work, we were dismayed to see the CDC’s 2015 removal of eating disorders surveillance questions from the Youth Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The CDC surveillance surveys provide a valuable opportunity for our nation to detect, track, assess, and identify community-level issues for public health so that we can best coordinate prevention efforts for the most at risk populations. As you know, a lack of data collection for mental illness is already a serious problem, and this sparse availability information hinders our ability to deliver treatment to those who need it most.
Accordingly, we request that the CDC expand its national surveillance to include eating disorders questions within three of its numerous national surveys, including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, National Health Interview Survey, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Specifically, an increase in surveillance will help us to learn early signs and symptoms before someone develops an eating disorder, identify regions or communities that are harder hit by eating disorders, and discover if we are missing affected groups who need specialized prevention efforts and treatment access. Particularly, we encourage the CDC to include eating disorder surveillance of underrepresented groups including men, Native Americans, and people at risk for binge eating disorder.
Recently we overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114 255), demonstrating a commitment towards fixing our nation’s broken mental health care system. Particularly, Cures represented the first time in history that we passed eating disorder-specific provisions into law, expressing our commitment to improving the lives of people affected by eating disorders.
To address the alarming statistics surrounding eating disorders, we urge you to include eating disorders questions in your national surveys to help us to detect, track, assess and identify new issues in the public related to this deadly disorder. Thank you for your consideration of this important request. Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office