Friday, April 18, 2008

France Has Eating Disorders Legislation. What is the U.S. Doing?

France has officially passed a law making it illegal to promote extreme thinness through pro-ana websites. While critics argue that penalizing these sites will stigmatize sufferers, Health Minister Roselyn Bachelot sees this as a way for the government to French government to take a stand against what she views as life-threatening behavior. She also plans to require doctors to conduct eating disorder screenings on children, starting at the age of 12.

Two of France's most high-profile families have been personally touched by eating disorders. Former president Jacques Chirac's eldest daughter has suffered with anorexia for many years. And in 1995, news anchor Patrick Poivre d'Arvor's 19-year-old daughter committed suicide after a long battle with anorexia.

So what is the U.S. doing about eating disorders? There are certainly plenty of high-profile Americans who have suffered from eating disorders. Just turn on Entertainment Tonight or flip through a celebrity magazine, and you'll see a story about someone "in a battle for her life" or someone who is "dying to be thin." Where is our government in all of this? Try to get insurance coverage for eating disorder treatment and you'll find out exactly how big of a mess our health care system is (if by some miracle you haven't uncovered that fact already). And while eating disorders are a much-buzzed-about media topic, most family doctors still aren't educated on how to spot the signs and symptoms. But there are advocates who are working to change that. If you think the U.S. government should play an active role in eating disorders research, treatment, and prevention, go to the Eating Disorder Coalition's website and sign up for their newsletter. We just did.

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