The Emily Program Foundation has dedicated energy and resources to advocacy because we know it is critical to realizing our vision of a world without stigma and misconceptions about eating disorders and disordered eating. We define advocacy as standing up for what we believe in, taking action and inspiring others to take action to bring about change, having a voice, and being part of the solution. We are “boots on the ground” advocates and we encourage people who struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating, their friends and family, and everyone affected by eating disorders to become advocates.
There are an infinite number of ways to get involved in advocacy and opportunities are abundant. Advocacy can be as simple as making a phone call or as involved as traveling to Washington D.C. to join fellow advocates on Capitol Hill. Becoming an advocate is easy and most people already have the skills they need to be an effective advocate. You do not have to be an expert on eating disorders, but you do need to be willing to use your voice and share your story. Advocates tell us that using their voice to speak up about eating disorders is both empowering and affirming, and is often an important part of their journey toward recovery or in helping a loved one recover from an eating disorder.
What is advocacy?
Advocacy is empowering, affirming, and a necessary component in fighting eating disorders across the globe. Advocacy efforts in the eating disorder arena may involve advocating for sociocultural change, increased research efforts for the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, and access to evidence‐based treatment. The more we talk, the more people will learn about the life-threatening effects of eating disorders and the obstacles to recovery, lessening the shame and stigma associated with eating disorders.
Current advocacy efforts include:
- Meetings with policy makers in Minnesota and Washington D.C.: As a member of the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC), a group of eating disorder centers, organizations, and individuals who do significant advocacy work at the federal level, we lobby Congress by sharing real-life stories of how eating disorders impact individuals, families and communities. We are currently lobbying in support of The Anna Westin Act. The Anna Westin Act aims to address the three T’s: Training, Treatment, and Truth in Advertising. Enactment of the bill would help in the prevention of eating disorders by training health professionals on the early identification and intervention when precursory symptoms and behaviors arise and providing better treatment coverage to those affected by the disorders, thereby decreasing out-of-pocket treatment costs. In addition, the Anna Westin Act sheds light on the harmful effects of altered body images in advertising. Click here to read more on this historic legislation.
- Scholarships: As part of our advocacy efforts, the Foundation offers financial scholarships to help individuals attend the EDC’s Lobby Day which typically occurs twice a year in the spring and the fall. Information on how to apply is announced through our blog, social media, and newsletter.
- Legal advocacy: The Foundation works to ensure individuals have access to the levels of care they need and are entitled to under their health insurance. Sometimes insurers deny coverage, or coverage at higher levels of care, for eating disorders. Depending on the policy and the level of coverage provided for other health issues, this may be in violation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). The Emily Program Foundation provides grants to help individuals work with their providers and engage the services of a pre-approved legal representative to write a letter to the insurance company. If you believe you have been denied coverage in violation of the MHPAEA, contact us to learn more about our legal advocacy grant program.
- Working Collaboratively: The Foundation works collaboratively with other mental health organizations to ensure our voices are heard and represent all those impacted by eating disorders and other mental illnesses. As members of the Minnesota Mental Health Legislative Network, a group of thirty provider and advocacy organizations, we support each others work and legislatively address issues related to mental health.