By PATRICK LYONS
Capital News Service
LANSING – A recommendation to the governor that would scrap the planned regulation of dietitians and nutritionists has alarmed the state’s dietitians.
Kathy DeGrow, a lobbyist for the Michigan Dietetic Association, said the problem with the move is the need to preserve the occupation’s credibility.
She said all dietitians have the knowledge and experience to be considered nutritionists, but not all “nutritionists” are qualified to be considered dietitians. All dietitians must be registered with the American Association of Dietitians, but nutritionists are not registered.
“There are people who are calling themselves ‘nutritionists’ but they do not have the same credential as a professional who would have a license and a well-defined educational background,” she said.
Regulation is important for the occupation because physicians often refer patients to a dietitian or nutritionist, DeGrow said, and physicians like to know that the professional they recommend has the proper credentials.
She said the number of patients referred to dietitians and nutritionists will continue to rise, due to a shortage of physicians.
She said deregulation would create confusion and be a risk to public health.
“It is buyers beware — you can pick someone out of the Yellow Pages, when it might be a life-or-death health condition, and you can no longer discern who is a credible, educated and qualified practitioner,” DeGrow said.
The recommendation was part of a larger proposal that suggested deregulation of 18 occupations and elimination of nine occupational boards.
Steven Hilfinger, director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) said, “Occupational regulations, while in many cases necessary to protect consumers and public health, operate as a barrier to entry into a given profession. This inhibits entrepreneurship and restricts competition, leading to increased costs and decreased levels of service for consumers.”
His department made the recommendations.
Rob Nederhood, deputy director of LARA’s Office of Regulatory Reinvention, said public health and safety were the main concern when decisions were made about which occupations to deregulate.
“Certainly they provide a public health service, but they are going to be hired into an institutional setting, whether it is a school, a hospital or a clinic. There are already safeguards for those institutions to determine that the people they hire are qualified. So really having a state license is not necessary,” he said.
However, DeGrow said a large percent of the state’s 5,000 dietitians work in private practice.
She said the Legislature voted in 2006 to regulate dietitians and nutritionists, and that regulation is still not final. To be licensed under the planned regulations an applicant would have to meet education requirements, pass a proctored professional test and work in a pre-professional role.
Those criteria would be thrown out if the state moves forward with deregulation.
Other health-related occupations suggested for deregulation include acupuncturists, speech pathologists and respiratory care professionals.
By PATRICK LYONS