Lifting up the Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy in Community Health Care

By Dennis Archambault

Nutrition is a critical component of health. Globally, one in five deaths is related to dietary factors, according to the World Health Organization. In countries like the United States malnutrition may exist among the “haves and have-nots” in the form of obesity and undernutrition. In an article, “Primary Care and Nutrition,” published by WHO, the authors strongly advocate for nutrition education in the primary care setting. Specific recommendations:

  • Strengthen links between primary health care and the nutrition agenda with nutrition as a human rights issue.
  • Encourage primary health-care providers to support local multisectoral action on nutrition.
  • Empower communities and patients to address unhealthy diets.
  • Ensure the delivery of high-quality promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative nutrition interventions.

In a related article advocating for increased nutritional counseling in the primary care setting, the authors concluded that “registered dietitians can augment and complement family physicians’ activities in preventing, assessing, and treating nutrition-related problems. This model of shared care can be applied to integrating other specialized services into primary care practices.”

Michigan is one of only two states without any legal recognition of medical nutrition therapy or the practice of dietetics and nutrition.

Medical nutrition therapy is nutrition care services provided for the purpose of treating or managing a disease or medical condition. Legislation proposed by the Michigan House of Representatives, HB 4608, is tailored to increase access to quality, cost-effective nutrition care without impeding growth in the public health sector. This bill will:

  • Ensure people are treated by qualified nutrition professionals, overseen, and licensed by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who provide evidence-based medical nutrition therapy.
  • Reduce healthcare costs for several diseases and conditions by increasing access to medical nutrition therapy.
  • Save $14.5 million annually in hospital expenses through the direct ordering of therapeutic diets for patients by competent nutrition professionals.
  • Promote career development through the growth of new dietetic practices in the state.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is advocating for passage of HB 4608, which is supported by Authority Health on behalf of the MOTION Coalition. We believe that having licensed dietitian nutritionists practicing medical nutrition therapy in communities will enhance our efforts to create healthier, resilient communities.

Dennis Archambault is Vice President of Public Affairs for Authority Health