by Kitty Westin, eating disorder activist
It felt like I was in a dream this week when I was standing in line for security clearance to get into the White House for a meeting with top level White House staff, key government agencies, and eating disorders leaders from across the United States. I wondered if I would wake up and realize that I was having a really good dream. I didn’t wake up, it was real! It was a dream come true!
When I started advocating for attention to eating disorders at the national public policy level 16 years ago I often dreamed that someday our national leaders would pay attention and address the many issues that people affected by eating disorders face. I dreamed of a time when health care professionals, school personnel, and the general public would understand that eating disorders are serious, and sometimes, life threatening illness. I dreamed of the day when insurance companies would routinely APPROVE treatment for eating disorders at all levels of care. On Wednesday, September 14, 2016 I felt like I was living my dream!
The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC), our Washington DC based advocacy organization, was invited by White House staff to convene a roundtable discussion on eating disorders. For the first time in history, eating disorders caught the attention of the Executive Branch of the United States government. It was an amazing day!
The EDC pulled together nationally known leaders in the areas of training, treatment and research of eating disorders. The White House invited representatives from several agencies including; Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, Office of Women’s Health, Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, and NIMH. We discussed issues around mental health parity, early identification for school personnel and health professionals, and research needs as it relates to eating disorders. The end result included key follow-ups from the eating disorders community around all three areas. Overall, the conversations were very productive in all three areas, especially around the parity discussion. The White House and the agencies were extremely engaged and communicated how much they would like to have follow-ups and continue these discussions.
We are making amazing progress thanks to our advocates, our leaders, and our champions on the Hill! My dream of a world where eating disorders are no longer ignored, are no longer misunderstood and people with eating disorders (and all mental health issues) are able to get the care they need is in sight.