Announcement of Public Workshop, "Examining Health Care Competition" ("Health Care Workshop") Project No. P13-1207
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Marietta, Ga. a northern suburb of Atlanta. I work as a private practice Social Work clinician with adults and children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Depression, Tourette's Syndrome, and other diagnosis. I am also a Doctoral Candidate in Holistic Nutrition; completion date June 2014. Research shows that a very large percentage of consumers look for alternative health care to either augment or substitute allopathic medicine. Many laws restrict or prohibit alternative health practitioners from practicing in many states and therefore limit consumer choice. Alternative care often includes nutrition and supplements. A very stringent law, written by dieticians, was passed in Georgia in 1984 prohibiting anyone but dieticians, doctors, chiropractors, and nurses to practice nutrition. Social Workers were not listed in this law. Additionally, since this law was passed, the field of nutrition has continued to grow and change. There are now many types of alternative practitioners who also have much knowledge, skill, and training to share with consumers. Exercise trainers, acupuncturists, and holistic nutrition educators to name but a few. However, they are unable to freely practice without the fear of being fined or stopped completely due to this law. In my case, I have spoken to the Social Work Board, the National Association of Social Work (NASW), and my state legislator in an attempt to change the scope of practice for Social Workers in Georgia. Unfortunately, there are many political issues between boards making change difficult if not impossible. The reality is Social Workers typically review a client's lifestyle when preparing a treatment plan. Social Workers work with diabetics, people with eating disorders, and economically depressed clients who need assistance in nutrition education. Social Workers do this type of counseling all the time and always have. In my practice, I cannot provide sound and ethical mental health therapy without including nutrition education. For example, many kids with ADHD have poor lifestyle habits. By helping parents and children make healthy lifestyle choices including exercise, sleep, and good nutrition, a child can often avoid medication or have a lesser dose and therefore experience fewer side effects. My dissertation research is proving that supplements improve quality of life for children with ADHD and other diagnosis. I am qualified as a Social Worker and with my pending Doctorate to provide both psychotherapy and nutrition education for my clients, however, I am fearful because of the current law. It clearly restricts me from practicing in an appropriate way with my clients. I am also seriously concerned about the restrictions the law creates for consumer choice. According to the Georgia Health News website, 2013, Georgia ranked 20th in the nation for obese residents. 29.1% of the Georgia adult population is obese. Are there enough RD's to provide service for them all? Of course, obesity is not the only issue. Consumers who are ill may also want help with their nutrition to improve their quality of life i.e. cancer patients, fibromyalgia patients, depressed patients, etc. Shouldn't consumers have the right to decide if they want to work with a traditionally trained RD or an alternative care holistic practitioner? I believe there should be appropriate education, certification, and licensing so that we do protect the public. However, I do not believe that any one profession has a lock on nutrition nor should the Dietician Board be able to determine my scope of practice. Nutrition is not a profession. Nutrition is a tool that is used to treat many illnesses from diabetes to schizophrenia. There is much need in our communities. Consumers should be able to access all types of practitioners in their quest for good health and quality of care. Thank you very much for your consideration.