Please Help Nutritionists – and Clients – in Virginia

I’d like to start by apologizing for the appearance of this site – it’s under construction with a brand spanking new version expected in the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience! And now, on to bigger and better things:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is currently pushing a bill that would grant a monopoly on nutrition counseling to Registered Dietitians (RDs).  This would be devastating for freedom of choice in healthcare, as well as whole-food-based nutrition and health in Virginia.  For more background on this nutrition licensing bill click here.

The bill (HB345) will be heard THIS TUESDAY, Jan. 31 at approx. 10am. It is in subcommittee 2 (http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?121+sub+H12002).

Why is this important?

  • It limits the ability of people in Virginia to choose a nutrition care provider who meets their needs. While RDs are a great fit for some, others choose to work with nutritionists. The choice should lie in the hands of the consumer and not be made for the consumer by the government. Additionally, a bit of competition is healthy for any profession; monopolies fester, breed discontent, and generally don’t serve the greater good.
  • It will prevent highly qualified practitioners from practicing their craft – nutritionists like myself – ones who are licensed in other states and who have extensive clinical experience and education – will not be legally allowed to practice here.  Will other types of nutritionists – ones with few qualifications – be allowed to keep practicing? Yes, they will. And that is another topic for another day. Let’s not prevent all nutritionists from practicing because some are “not qualified.”

What can you do?

  • If you live in Virginia, please do one or all of the following:
    • Phone – Call your representatives, as well as the key delegates associated with HB345 (see list below)
    • Show up – Attend the sub-committee hearing on Jan. 31st at 10 am (General Assembly Building, Room 521 (room subject to change) Capitol Square, Richmond, VA 23219, 804-698-1073; Give yourself extra time, as you’ll have to park away from the General Assembly Building itself. Parking may cost about $10.)
    • Email – Here is a form you can use, provided by the Alliance for Natural Health; fill it out and the service will automatically send emails to your lawmakers
    • If you do not live in Virginia, please contact any friends, colleagues, patients/clients etc who do and ask them to pitch in. This is important!

What is the Difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

  • Education –  A registered dietitian must complete a bachelor’s degree with coursework approved by the AND, an internship of 6-12 months, and pass an exam in order to receive the RD credential.  Nutritionists have varying degrees or types of education; some states license nutritionists, some do not.  In order to receive the CNS certification that I have, I completed a master’s degree, 1000+ hours of supervised clinical work and an exam. In Maryland, this certification allows me to apply for licensure as a nutritionist. The same is true in many other states. Other nutritionists are trained by unaccredited programs – some of them quite good and some regrettable – or learn by practice, mentorship, etc.  Programs that train nutritionists typically do not have a curriculum set by an organization with sponsors like Coca-Cola.
  • Philosophy – While of course individual RDs and nutritionists will buck tradition, there are generally philosophical differences between the two groups.  As mentioned before, RDs follow a very specific curriculum as specified by the AND (formerly the ADA), and may also follow a more rigid assessment/diagnostic/treatment plan as well.  RDs may rely heavily on things like the USDA’s food pyramid or healthy plate programs, or the “calories in/calories out” philosophy of weight loss. Nutritionists tend to have a philosophy based on consumption of whole-foods, a deep respect for individual needs and differences, and may be able to “think outside the box” a bit more when it comes to assessment & plan.
  • Sponsorship – By definition, RDs are associated with the AND (formerly the ADA). The AND sets the curriculum for RD education, dictates best care practices for RDs, and provides or approves continuing education; unfortunately, these are potentially influenced by ulterior motives. A quick look at the major sponsors of the AND (!) will reveal how deep the conflicts of interest run: Hersheys? Coca-Cola? The American Dairy Council? Kelloggs? Yep, all of these and more are big-time sponsors. Do you think any of this is related to the AND position on diet soda? It’s no wonder that the AND/ADA needs to change more than its name. Nutritionists have generally been trained without ties to such corporate sponsors.

Summary

This discussion stimulates many complicated issues. “Nutritionist” can mean many things. Can consumers tell the difference between a well-trained nutritionist and a poorly-trained one? Between an RD and a nutritionist? Should they be asked to? Do we trust consumers to make educated decisions when provided with information about the philosophy and training of a care provider? The answers are unclear. For the purposes of this argument, let’s say that “nutritionist” means “someone who works with clients around nutrition who is NOT a dietitian.” Some of these people are well-trained, some are not.  The question is – do we want ONLY registered dietitians to practice in Virginia, or do we want others to be able to practice as well?  If we choose to keep the practice of nutrition open to nutritionists as well as dietitians, then we can discuss whether and how nutritionists should be licensed. For now, this is what I believe:

  • Nutritionists and dietitians are significantly different healthcare providers.
  • Each group plays an important role in providing nutrition education & support to consumers.
  • Virginians are better off having a choice when it comes to nutrition care.
  • Virginia consumers can and should evaluate the credentials and philosophy of all of their healthcare providers.
  • Let’s stop HB 345 now and then concern ourselves with whether nutritionists should be a licensed or regulated profession.

 

Contact Info for 10 Key VA Delegates:

John O’Bannon, M.D., Patron

804-698-1073

DelJOBannon@house.virginia.gov

 

Kaye Kory, Co-Patron

804-698-1038

DelKKory@house.virginia.gov

 

Robert Orrock, Chairman HWI Committee 

804-698-1054

DelBOrrock@house.virginia.gov

 

Delegate Robert B. Bell   (R) – House District 58

General Assembly Building, Room 720

Capitol Square

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1058

email: DelRBell@house.virginia.gov

 

Delegate Anne B. Crockett-Stark   (R) – House District 6

General Assembly Building, Room 819

Capitol Square

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1006

email: DELACrockett-Stark@House.virginia.gov

 

Delegate Roxann L. Robinson   (R) – House District 27

General Assembly Building, Room 806

Capitol Square

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1027

email: delrrobinson@house.virginia.gov

 

Delegate Gordon C. Helsel, Jr.   (R) – House District 91

General Assembly Building, Room 812

Capitol Square

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1091

email: DelGHelsel@house.virginia.gov

 

Delegate Joseph R. Yost   (R) – House District 12

General Assembly Building, Room 518

Capitol Square

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1012

email: DelJYost@house.virginia.gov

 

Delegate David L. Englin   (D) – House District 45

General Assembly Building, Room 707

Capitol Square

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1045

email: DelDEnglin@house.virginia.gov

 

Delegate Patrick A. Hope   (D) – House District 47

General Assembly Building, Room 712

Capitol Square

Richmond, Virginia 23219

(804) 698-1047

email: DelPHope@house.virginia.gov

 

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Camille

Hi there. I’m Camille. I’m an associate professor at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology and pathophysiology. I’m also a licensed nutritionist, specializing in fertility and reproductive health. (I’m not taking any new clients!) Lastly but not leastly, I’m a mom, a gardener and a really horrible housekeeper.

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