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From: Mark Rifkin (
Subject:         A Likely Future Scenario
Date: December 16, 2005 at 5:38 pm PST

A reader posted a message a few days ago about the value of her self-study nutrition course and intentions to focus on veg'n diets. This was my response. It is central to the board's purpose and background, so I thought I'd repeat it here.

The value of the course is dependent upon three factors:

1) the rules of your state. While each state's rules vary, my state just passed regulations which appear to prohibit any unlicensed person from providing nutrition counseling to anyone for money. Licensure requires an RD (from the ADA) or CNS (from the Cert. Bd of Nutr. Specialists). Completion of an approved program is a requirement for RD and CNS. The accreditation of a career school has no effect on its non-approval status with ADA or the CBNS.

2) the enforcement of those rules. Right now enforcement in some states may be lax, as unlicensed practitioners continue in business. I know of one person in my state who was practicing without a license, but appeared to be unconcerned about the State regulations. However, consider the following scenario:

health care costs continue to skyrocket ==>
the market is increasingly driven by insurers and governments searching for more ways to reduce costs ==>
increased interest and research support for nutrition's potential to reduce costs via disease prevention/treatment ==>
insurers and governments become more willing to reimburse for nutrition counseling/therapy, but only from qualified licensed practitioners ==>
State governments become concerned and implement better enforcement of licensing regulations.

3) the market/interest in veg'n diets is not high enough in most states to support even a licensed practitioner. However, public interest in health/nutrition continues to increase, and virtually all dietary recommendations advocate eating more fruits, veg, beans, and whole grains (aka, a PLANT-BASED DIET). The practitioners who will be in demand will be those who can help people apply these guidelines while recognizing that most people don't want to become veg'n. Thus I found myself much more marketable after I removed the "V" word from my business name. I now focus instead on PLANT-BASED DIETS, which maintains demand for the services of the prevention-oriented practitioner while allowing the client the freedom to blend the dietary recommendations with his/her likely preference for non-veg'n foods. From the veg'n perspective, as clients' intake of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains increases, their intake of non-veg'n foods decreases, and the total number of animals killed for food declines drastically.

In my opinion, the best educational path is to find an ADA-approved (or CBNS-approved) academic program. This way, your license plus your ability to help the client prevent disease helps the insurer reduce costs, and you find yourself in high demand.

Mark Rifkin, MS, RD, LDN

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