During the 2004 Session of the General Assembly, House Bill 455 (HB 455) was introduced by Delegate McQuigg and carried over to the 2005 Session. HB 455 would have required dietitians to be licensed by the Board of Medicine. During the 2005 Session, HB 455 passed the House with an amendment but was passed by in the Senate Education and Health Committee with a letter. The letter was sent to the Joint Commission to review the issue.
A number of previous studies have addressed the issue of licensure for dietitians. For instance, House Joint Resolution 150 of the 1986 Session requested a study on the need to regulate dietitians and nutritionists. The study was conducted by the Council on Health Regulatory Boards. The conclusion of this study was that dietitians and nutritionists did not require regulation at that time due to safeguards that were available including enforcement of: laws against the unlicensed practice of medicine, the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, and the statutes and regulations governing the various health occupations and professions. Additionally, House Bill 312 of the 1994 General Assembly Session would have established licensure for dietitians and nutritionists. The Bill was vetoed by the Governor when his amendment to reenact the bill in the 1995 Session was not accepted. The Governor directed the Department of Health Professions (DHP) to examine the issue. The Department found that there were “existing mechanisms in place to afford consumer protection and redress without state regulation of dieticians and nutritionists."
Provisions in HB 455 would have defined the practice of dietetics and provided licensure requirements which would have included giving the Board of Medicine the authority to establish the criteria for licensure. The public discussion concerning HB 455 during this study was one that was debated by a number of parties on both sides of the licensure issue. Arguments for licensure included concerns such as the unregulated practice of providing nutritional advice being a threat to public safety and anecdotal evidence of harm to consumers. Arguments against licensure included limitations on the freedom of speech and the ability to engage in a profession, the creation of a monopoly, and undue financial burden.
In November 2005, JCHC voted to take no action in regards to this issue.
On behalf of the Joint Commission on Health Care and its staff, I would like to thank the numerous individuals who represented advocacy groups, health professionals, associations, State agencies, and various businesses for their participation and assistance with this study.
Kim Snead Executive Director June 2006
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