Pennsylvania Registered Dietitian Nutritionists have enjoyed licensure for two decades. Achieving that goal was a process that dietitians in PA fought hard for over many years.
So, you might be wondering, if we are already licensed, why are we working so hard on getting new licensure legislation through the Pennsylvania House and Senate?
The answer has to do with the scope of our current license. Read on to find out why PA dietitians are fighting to make our license even better.
Believe it or not, our license covers “title only,” which prevents those not licensed from using the terms or designations licensed dietitian-nutritionist or LDN. Sadly, it does not prevent any individual, educated or not, from practicing Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) or dietetics.
For the safety of the public, the dietitians of Pennsylvania are trying to expand our license to include Practice Exclusivity. This would allow only licensed dietitians the ability to practice MNT or dietetics in our state. You can see why this is so important and why it really matters.
A few different bills that would fix this problem and give us practice exclusivity have been introduced in the past few years. Each time, they have been introduced by Representative Thomas Mahaffie with additional cosponsors.
But at the end of each legislative year, any bill that doesn’t pass and become a law must be reintroduced in the next session and the process of debating and voting starts all over. That’s what has happened with the various versions of our licensure amendment bill.
With the help of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a professional lobbyist firm, PAND leaders continue to make revisions to the bill (soon to be introduced) in order to make the language acceptable to those who are opposed.
Can you imagine a person with little to no training or education in nutrition practicing MNT? It could happen. A layperson can legally teach and charge people with illnesses like cancer, diabetes, liver disease, renal disease or any other condition, what to eat and what supplements to take as long as they are not using the term licensed dietitian.
These other nutrition purveyors likely have no real education in nutrition and may be spreading false and unfounded information that lacks any evidence behind it. Just look on social media and you’ll see all the bogus information being spread. Would you like these people handling tube feedings? It could happen.
As of the writing of this article, our bill is about to be reintroduced in the PA House by co-prime sponsors Rep. Mehaffie and Rep. Kyle Mullins. For the first time, it will also be introduced in the Senate. This is progress and we have great hopes these bills will be passed this year.
However, we need your help. We do, of course, have some people who are opposed to this amendment to our licensure rules. They may be very vocal, and if we aren’t as well, their voices will drown ours out.
Please contact your own state representatives in both the House and Senate once the bills are introduced. This is especially important if they are on the licensure committee for either side of Congress.
Contacting your state representatives is easier than you might think. It only takes a couple of minutes to make a call or write an email. Simply share your support for the bill and provide the bill number once we have it. Let the person on the phone know you’re a constituent of the representative’s or senator’s district and why you support this bill. You may emphasize that this involves the safety of Pennsylvania’s residents and will protect them from potentially harmful information.
Locate your state representatives https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/
Get involved in public policy from PAND https://www.eatrightpa.org/page/get-involved-in-policy-advocacy
The Academy’s information on engaging with members of Congress https://www.eatrightpro.org/advocacy/take-action/grassroots-resources/engaging-with-congress-members