CDC Eating Disorders Health Monitoring Project

Advocacy Victory!

President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 into law (P.L. 117-103) on March 15, 2022, which included language encouraging the CDC to integrate unhealthy weight control practices questions within their youth surveillance system survey. This marks the fourth Fiscal Year STRIPED has successfully advocated for the inclusion of this language. To further push the CDC, STRIPED partnered with the Academy for Eating Disorder (AED)’s Epidemiology & Public Health Practice Special Interest Group to submit a proposal in December 2021 for the re-inclusion of items assessing unhealthy weight control practices within the standard and/or national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This proposal received signatory support from numerous leading local and national eating disorder organizations, as well as from three YRBS coordinators.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a close eye on the health of Americans by collecting data from individuals, hospitals, and healthcare providers.  They call this “health surveillance.” The CDC’s health surveillance in communities across the country is often the only way we know when there is an outbreak of an infection, such as COVID-19, or rising rates of an illness, such as skin cancer, affecting one community or sometimes many communities. Collecting this information helps to keep track of trends that might either show prevention programs are working or maybe instead show that things are getting worse and the public health and healthcare communities need to respond by stepping up efforts to address the causes of illness and ensure there is treatment available to the communities in need.

This system can work really well when the right questions are asked on surveys, when the right data are counted. But the flip side of that is that if questions are not asked about a particular health issue, we really don’t know what’s happening and we might not even know a problem exists.  Simply put, if you’re not counted, you don’t count. This is why STRIPED is leading a collaboration of national organizations, including the Academy for Eating Disorders, Eating Disorders Coalition, and the National Eating Disorders Association, to urge the CDC to include survey questions to track eating disorders across the country and to spot the early signs and symptoms. Once eating disorders are on the CDC’s radar and included in the agency’s national health surveillance surveys, we will be much more prepared to develop an appropriate and effective public health response.

Most recently, STRIPED has been focusing its efforts on the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a representative survey of high school students in the U.S. For many years, the YRBS was one of the few sources of national data on the prevalence of disordered eating behaviors among youth. However, in 2015, items assessing disordered eating were removed from the YRBS questionnaire, leaving public health professionals and researchers without the necessary information to monitor trends and patterns in these behaviors. Getting these items back on to the questionnaire is of critical public health importance, which is why STRIPED and our collaborators submitted a proposal to the CDC in December 2021 for their re-inclusion. Read our proposal requesting the re-inclusion of items measuring “Unhealthy Weight Control Practices” within the standard and/or national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)!