Reflections from the 2016 Public Policy Workshop in DC

ab40dcec-02aa-4a07-a13a-b962419558c2This past weekend, Healthie dietitians and staff had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Public Policy Workshop, a policy and advocacy conference in Washington D.C. The worksop was hosted by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

We had the opportunity to join 300 dietitians from around the country to learn, discuss, and lobby for key legislative issues discussed in Congress today.

As a team, we walked away from the Public Policy Workshop incredibly excited about the conversations happening in D.C. Members of the House and Senate alike were engaged, aware, and excited about sponsoring bills that would expand reimbursement and scope of services for dietitians. Now more than ever is a great time to be a practicing dietitian, as nutrition and preventive healthcare is finally starting to get the face time and recognition that it has long deserved.

Here is an overview of 3 bills relevant to dietitians that were highlighted during the Public Policy Workshop:

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act

The Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (H.R. 2404, S.1509) is a bipartisan bill being headed by Representatives Erik Paulsen and Ron Kind and Senators Tom Carper, Dr. Bill Cassidy and Lisa Murkowski. The bill recognizes the high prevalence of obesity (2/3 of the adult population being overweight or obese), in addition to that 70% of people eligible for Medicare are affected by diabetes or pre-diabetes.

This bill proposes that registered dietitians are qualified professionals in treating obesity for Medicare patients. Medicare beneficiaries with obesity would have increased access to effective treatment.

Prevent Diabetes in Medicare Act 

The Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act (H.R.1686) focuses on amending Social Security to include Medicare coverage for Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) to people at risk for Type 2 diabetes. The plan outlined in this bill is both effective and cost effective. Nutritional interventions by dietitians slow or stop the progression of diabetes. Additionally, the program should decrease the amount of new diabetic patients per year.

Though the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) may seem similar to the provisions of this bill, NDPP is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and does not have dietitian involvement or a retooling of patients’ diets. NDPP focuses primarily on group counseling and does not have the individualized care that this bill may provide.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Child Nutrition Reauthoriziation (CNR) is a piece of legislation that covers various programs, like the School Lunch Program, WIC, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and more. These programs are referred to as the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP).

CNPs work to improve children’s diets, especially in communities with limited access to nutritional diets. CNPs improve children’s health nationwide, in addition to improve school attendance, test scores, and educational attainment. A bill related to CNR, called the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016, was passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In the House of Representatives, however, their version of the bill has included changes that will negatively change children’s health. The Senate’s bill is going to the Floor. Lobbying your representatives on behalf of both bills can change how each passes and positively affect their final versions.

We can agree that these bills are effective and needed. Expanding the scope of practice of dietitians will improve Americans’ health. Passing these bills will take the effort of dietitians like yourself.

Here’s what you can do: spend 10 minutes contacting your local and state representatives and sharing your stories as an RD. Persuade your representative that these bills are an important measure and beneficial to the American healthcare community.

You can view the Academy’s action alerts for more information.

Making great political and medical change may seem daunting, but we can all take part. These bills have implications that can change our field for the better. Dietitians and the Academy are effective groups that are making things happen.

We are optimistic that these important strides will come. We also truly enjoyed meeting so many new faces at the conference. Until the next Public Policy Workshop!

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