The following is a guest post by Jonathan Posey of the Council of Holistic Health Educators.
Some of you may have heard rumblings about a major development down in Florida. The holistic community is on the verge of a major victory, but we need your help. Earlier this year, the Council of Holistic Health Educators working with some AMAZING practitioners, succeeded in getting legislation introduced in Florida that would allow anyone to provide "recommendations or advice" concerning nutrition for remuneration so long as that person does not use certain protected titles. This. Is. Huge!
That bill - H 1047 Section 19, sponsored by Representative Julio Gonzalez - was approved unanimously by the Health Quality Subcommittee on January 24th. Soon it will be heard by the full Health and Human Services committee where the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition, along with the Dietetics and Nutrition Practice Council, will come out in force against it. Already they are raising the specter of a public health crisis should this bill become law. Let's dispel some of the myths, rumors, and downright false information being spread on this bill.
- What does the bill do? Exempts from licensure thousands of well qualified nutrition professionals so they may provide nutrition advice for remuneration so long as they do not use certain protected titles.
- Why is this important? For 30+ years the Dietitians have had a monopoly on nutrition services, even going so far as to threaten nutrition professionals with large fines for simply telling others what foods to eat, recipes to make, and how to improve their nutrition intake.
- How did we get to this point? Initially the law was presented as way to protect public health. Instead, it has become a way to use government enforcement to protect a dietetic monopoly, allowing one group to exclude other qualified practitioners from working in the profession. This monopoly is hanging on by a thread in only 21 states and the District of Columbia. The majority of state legislatures have rolled back their nutrition laws, or created broad exemptions so others can practice, and yet no calamity has befallen the public.
- Will the amendment create a public health crisis by allowing anyone to provide nutrition advice? No. Providing nutrition advice without a state license does not pose a threat of harm to the public health. To support this claim, one only needs to look at the liability insurance market: One million dollars of liability insurance for a nutrition practitioners costs, on average, about $215 per year. The risk to the public is that low, not because of state regulation, but because providing nutrition advice has proven to be extremely low risk across the country.
- Consider this: Most Americans are getting their nutrition advice from the internet, friends, and family. How is this any different? Give the people of Florida the opportunity to work with a provider of their choice that meets their needs. Not everyone needs a licensed dietitian, but if they do, they can make that choice without the law forcing them to.
- What happens if this becomes law? The Dietitians can keep their license and their protected titles. The only thing that changes is that everyone else - Holistic Professionals, Health Coaches, Nutritional Therapy Practitioners, Fitness Coaches, and many, many more - may now provide nutrition advice for remuneration, without needing a license, and without being unfairly excluded from the marketplace.
- Remember: Generally unlicensed holistic practitioners do not work in hospitals, and they do not diagnose, treat, or cure diseases. It's also forbidden in the training and scope of practice. If this bill becomes law, more than 5,000+ small business owners who provide nutrition advice, would be allowed to do so without fear of a state board that is more concerned with protecting their monopoly, than the public health.
Let's go a little deeper…
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) claim that Dietitians are the only ones qualified to provide any nutrition advice and guidance. This includes which foods to eat, recipes to make, groceries to buy, and supplements to take. They also claim that a Dietitian is the only one uniquely qualified to use nutrition to diagnose, treat, or cure a disease.
This last statement is rather interesting, considering Florida law clearly states that: "Nutrition counseling does not include diagnosis, treatment, operation, or prescription for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity, or other physical or mental condition."
So which is it? If nutrition counseling does not by law include "diagnosis, treatment, operation, or prescription for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity, or other physical or mental condition" then why is it so heavily regulated, and restricted to only those who hold a license?
The answer is because it's a monopoly. The AND, working through state licensure boards, have vigorously defended their exclusivity to provide nutrition advice. Thirty states have found it fitting to deny the dietitians their monopoly, through the creation of broad exemptions for unlicensed practitioners.
NTP and NTC clients live happy, healthy, successful lives with good food, and good nutrition. Not everyone needs to see a dietitian, particularly with the costs involved, and insurance coverage with what it is these days.
You know all of this already! Why am I belaboring it? Because we've been labeled a public health crisis by the AND. We're the "disruptors" of their monopoly. Holistic practitioners have been referred to as untrained, unqualified, and dangerous, when this is simply not true. Resistance to holistic health by the dietetics monopoly has nothing to do with public health, and everything to do with protecting a financial monopoly that they've held bitterly for over 30 years.
What you can do to help
Are you in Florida? Excellent. We need your help!! A hearing will be coming up soon in the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee. We need you to show up. If you're willing to speak, the Council of Holistic Health Educators can help prepare you for a brief stand-up and speak moment. Just showing up is enormously helpful because it shows legislators that YOU EXIST and by speaking you show that you matter!
Other ways you can help: Fill out one of the action alerts! Call your legislator and encourage them to vote in favor of H 1047, and support the exemption language. Know someone who might benefit from this exemption? How about your local fitness center, or gym? Where do you find your dietary supplements? Even if you're not in Florida you might know someone who does.
We have a tremendous opportunity to break the dietetics monopoly in Florida. Let's not pass this chance up.
Jonathan Posey is the Executive Director of the Council of Holistic Health Educators, of which NTA is a founding member. He can be reached at Jonathan@HolisticCouncil.com.