Bennie Award: US Dieticians Want to Jail Grandma for Recommending Chicken Soup?
“I gotta law, you getta monopoly…everybody-a happy!”–Uncle Bennie
…another winner in the quest to entrench mediocrity through legislation? Read this writer whose opinion (along with this article ) just might become a crime under the proposed measures that would allow only RD’s or Registered Dieticians –whose poor carb-mega-farms crony- capitalist driven advice many feel has contributed to the obesity epidemic overtaking the world–to make diet recommendations: http://drdavidbrownstein.blogspot.com/2012/04/ada-wants-nutrition-prisons.html and:
Deep within the annals of obscure amendments to state licensure statutes, and within the US Patent and Trademark Office’s records, a battle is raging which could have a massive impact on the way you access nutrition information in our nation’s healthcare system.
Here’s the outline:
Through a series of bills it is supporting and lobbying for, the nation’s trade group of dietitians, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—generally known to the public by its old name, the American Dietetic Association—appears to be gaining legal control over who may provide nutrition counseling in a professional context. The effort also extends through a series of certification trademarks for which the Academy has recently applied.
This past January, the group, founded in 1917 and known for almost a century as the American Dietetic Association, announced it was changing its name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (I use the old and new name equivalently in this article.)
Last December, before it announced its name change, the Association applied with the US Patent and Trademark Office for a series of certification marks, a type of trademark related to credentialing, for a comprehensive array of nutrition-related professional titles, including:
- Certified Nutrition Associate
- Certified Nutrition Coach
- Certified Nutrition Educator
- Certified Nutrition Manager
- Certified Nutrition Professional
- Registered Nutrition Associate
- Registered Nutrition Coach
- Registered Nutrition Educator
- Registered Nutrition Manager
- Registered Nutrition Professional
The certification mark applications, in conjunction with the name change, suggest that the Academy is attempting to expand its scope and influence, from its decades-old role as the industry group for Registered Dietitians (RDs, who often work in institutional settings such as schools and hospitals), to now touch upon the entire field and professional practice of nutrition.
Indeed, an internal American Dietetic Association document, entitled “Regulatory and Competitive Environment of Dietetic Services,” appears to imply a strategy for gaining legal control over the term “nutritionist.”
While no one would deny that Registered Dietitians often provide extremely valuable nutrition services across a wide range of settings (in schools, hospitals, and corporate workplaces, to name a few typical places), this article is not about Registered Dietitians per se.
Rather, I focus here on the industry trade group that represents them politically, and particularly, on its apparent efforts to protect RDs against marketplace competition from other nutrition professionals. The article raises the question: should consumers have access to a wide array of different nutrition counseling choices/philosophies, among a wide array of professionals with differing credentials, or should the American Dietetics Association have strong legally-enforced say in who may or may not compete with the specific group of nutrition professionals it represents?
The American Dietetic Association’s Anti-Competition Document
The Association document linked above minces no words about its purpose. It opens: “This Backgrounder highlights the significant competitive threat Registered Dietitians. . . face in the provision of various dietetic and nutrition services. . . . We must be aware that existing legal and regulatory constraints on practice are unlikely to prevent robust, broad competition in these growth areas.” [Emphasis added.]
The document specifically bemoans that the word “dietitian” (the trade group’s decades-old area of coverage and speciality) is regulated far more heavily than the word “nutritionist”:
Simply put, governments more strictly regulate the work of and qualifications for dietitians than it does for nutritionists, and competitors are explicit about their intention to exploit this dietetics/nutrition distinction. An array of competitors is already providing would-be clients with personalized health education and nutritional counseling in growth areas such as prevention and wellness and in private practice careers. The required and necessary skill set of RDs competing with these other nutrition professionals may not necessarily be the same that clinical dietitians [sic], but RDs cannot cede this expanding market to others who clearly intend to provide nutrition services. [Emphasis added]
The document goes on to survey in detail the competitive threat posed by many different types of non-RD practitioners who give nutrition advice:
- Nurses:The document worries that “‘Wellness Nurses’. . . are more likely to compete with RDs; they largely work in local government, corporate offices, and schools, where they conduct health coaching. . . and other tasks that could otherwise be performed by a community or consultant dietitian.”
- Pharmacists:“Research shows that pharmacists are frequently providing information about healthful diets, medical device functions, and numerous other issues raised by customers. The potential for competition from these consultations arises if, after successfully screening a man for diabetes, the pharmacist were to talk with him about changing his diet in light of his diagnosis as diabetic.”
- Personal Trainers:The document states that “the emphasis on preventive health and wellness care is expected to drive an increase in the number of jobs for fitness professionals,” and decries that “continued competition can be expected” from them. “[B]ecause of their current practice and expressed intent, trainers should be considered competitors for certain unrestricted preventive and wellness care tasks.”
- Chiropractors: “New Jersey legislature radically changed chiropractors’ scope of practice from specifically denying them the authority to recommend nutritional supplements and conduct nutritional counseling to specifically permittingthose tasks.”
- Naturopaths and Homeopaths: “Alternative practitioners like naturopaths and homeopaths are among the professions most aggressively seeking greater recognition and acceptance by advocating and defeating legislation. It is the group of traditional naturopaths wanting to provide nutritional counseling (and who are closely aligned with holistic medicine and nutrition community) that pose one of the most significant competitive threats to dietitians in the marketplace.” [Emphasis added.]
Finally, the Academy seems to outline a strategy to prevent the competition: gain legislative control over the term nutritionist: “A troubling pattern exists when looking at practice exclusivity and title protection in the most populous states, particularly with regard to non-licensed practitioners’ use of the title ‘Nutritionist.’ None of the three states largest in population protect the title ‘Nutritionist.’”
Next: From the Anti-Competition Document to Legislative Actionhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2012/04/05/american-dietetic-association/