Senate committee discusses bill to define who can give medical nutrition therapy

The Michigan Legislature is working to ensure patient safety when seeking out registered dietitian nutritionists and nutritionists. 

In the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee meeting on May 12th, the committee heard testimony of Amendment S2 on Senate Bill 614, which would prescribe the scope of practice and outline the licensing requirements for dietitian nutritionists and nutritionists to give medical nutrition therapy. This would limit non-registered practitioners—like personal trainers—from giving medical nutrition therapy, but still allows them to give general non-medical nutrition information. 

 

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The bill was introduced in July 2021 and received its first hearing in October. The Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee agreed last fall that more work and stakeholder engagement was needed on the bill. 

The S2 amendment would clarify important definitions including the definition of “medical nutrition therapy,” which is “the use of nutrition care services for the treatment of management of the diseases of medical conditions,” said bill sponsor Senator Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Township). 

In his presentation, Sen. MacDonald made clear that this will not prohibit personal trainers from giving general non-medical nutrition guidance or information to their clients for their own personal nutritional health journey. 

“This bill further helps protect the public by ensuring that only the properly trained and licensed professionals are offering advice on medical nutrition therapy,” Sen. MacDonald said. 

Emily Camiener, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Co-Chair of the Licensure Task Force with the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said that personal trainers can sometimes give medical nutrition advice that could end up harming the patient. 

For example, a nutritionist or trainer without a license can meet someone with cardiovascular disease and recommend the DASH diet meant to lower blood pressure. But because of their lack of training, they might not know everything about that patient’s condition, which could turn out to be dangerous for that person’s health. 

“It allows physicians to know that when their patient leaves the hospital or even leaves their doctor’s office, that they can then refer to a dietitian knowing that the patient and the physician are all in alignment with that health care continuum so that the patient doesn’t leave not sure who they are supposed to see for medical nutrition therapy. It provides that clarity,” Camiener said.

Senator Lana Theis (R-Brighton) expressed her opposition to the bill saying Michigan should be more concerned about removing licensure restrictions on practice and not adding to an already restrictive system. 

“I struggled since I came into the legislature with all of the licensures, registrations, and certifications,” Sen. Theis said. “I think we need to make sure that we are placing it at the least restrictive level that we can to provide the most safety and I’m not convinced that licensure is the correct approach in this space.”

Organizations in support of the bill include Sparrow Health System and the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians. Opposed organizations include the Mackinac Center of Public Policy and Americans for Prosperity.

The bill is expected to be voted on in the next meeting of the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee next week.