Submitted by Syncha Maniscalco
Director Wisconsin Health Freedom Coalition
wihfc.com
Sheldon, WI 54766
Nutritionist says proposal could end her practice

 

 Dan Reiland Karen Hurd Karen Hurd, owner of Karen R. Hurd Nutritional Practice in Fall Creek, is worried that the passage of Senate Bill 115 and Assembly Bill 440 would jeopardize her ability to provide nutritional consultation to her 6,000 clients. The bills would require licensing for dietitians and define the roles of dietitians and alternative health care practitioners.

Posted: Saturday, April 10, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 11:32 pm, Fri Apr 9, 2010.

By Janie Boschma Leader-Telegram staff | 

For five years their daughter suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and Tammy and Phil Holman didn’t know where to turn.

Doctors diagnosed 5-year-old Calista Holman with the disease in 2003.

Calista subsequently developed scleroderma, a painful skin disease, and by 2008 the girl, now 10, was still significantly limited by her illnesses. She was on and off of medicines, some of which posed health risks.

“Her health would improve, then get worse, and it just continued like that,” said Tammy Holman, of Shell Lake.

A doctor referred Calista to a dietitian, and by happenstance Tammy read a book by Fall Creek nutritionist Karen Hurd. The book made sense to the Holmans, so they decided to give Hurd, who designs specialized, nontraditional diets that typically include a low-fat, low-dairy, high-bean diet for patients.

Two years later, Tammy Holman said her daughter’s health is much improved, a fact she credits to Hurd’s care.

“As soon as Calista started seeing Karen, her health improved,” Holman said.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, is the lead author of the state Senate version of Senate Bill 115, which she said would create a licensing standard for dietitians.

“It allows a person who’s an alternative health care practitioner to continue to use the term ‘nutritionist,’ ” Vinehout said. “It doesn’t regulate the term ‘nutritionist’ at all.”

If the bill passes, Hurd worries that continuing to consult with her 6,000 clients would result in having to close her doors.

The proposed bill doesn’t exclude all types of alternative medicine, just those alternative medicine practitioners who provide advice and treatment for chronic illnesses.

“Somebody can’t say ‘I’m going to cure a cancer by this diet,’ ” Vinehout said. “That’s not my bill, that’s practicing medicine without a license.”

The bill will likely be up for a vote in the full Legislature within the next two weeks. If the bill passes, it would take effect seven months from being signed into law.

The bill exempts various parties from licensing, including nurses, chiropractors, dentists, athletic trainers, retailers and optometrists, among others.

Hurd would be exempt from licensing if she provided only general nutritional information and disclosed to her clients that she is not a licensed dietitian nutritionist, according to the bill. She could not provide “dietetic nutrition therapy,” which the bill defines as “the use of a medically prescribed diet, meal plans, and specialized nutrition solutions provided enterally, parenterally, or orally.”

However, Hurd would not be exempt, because she treats such conditions as arthritis, Crohn’s disease and diabetes.

“I don’t know what other words describe what I do,” Hurd said. “I will be doing nutritional care services, because that’s what I do.”

Hurd is a graduate of the American Academy of Nutrition, now called Huntington College of Health Sciences, a distance learning college listed as an accredited institution by the U.S. Department of Education. Hurd is currently completing prerequisite coursework for a doctorate in nutrition.

The bill does not specify penalties for noncompliance, but violators of current dietitian certification law would be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 6 months or both.

“Licensing is important so consumers have the right to know who’s the expert in that particular area,” said Lynn Edwards, coordinator of the Wisconsin Dietetic Association. “Licensing isn’t an unusual request, even more so with nutrition, if you look at how nutrition and disease play such an important role in health care. We need to make sure the recommendations are evidence-based and will actually make a difference.”

If the bill passes, Hurd would have to become a registered dietitian to be able to continue to provide dietetic therapy, Edwards said. That would require her to receive a degree from a college approved by the Dietetics and Nutrition Care Services Affiliated Credentialing Board, complete at least 900 supervised hours of dietetics practice and pass the American Dietetic Association’s exam.

Hurd said she does not want to become a dietitian because she doesn’t share the mainstream philosophy of treatment that includes medication or surgery.

“Let us have differing opinions, but they are trying to choke out emerging ideas,” Hurd said.

Hurd said she would like to see Wisconsin adopt safe harbor legislation protecting non-dietitian nutritionists and other natural health practitioners, as states such as Minnesota have.

Elizabeth Spencer, a former dietitian living in Eau Claire, said alternative care practitioners play an important role in promoting health and wellness.

“However, they cross the line sometimes when they go into medical and nutrition therapy,” Spencer said, “and try to provide supplements or say that a certain product will cure a disease, for which there is no evidence that such a thing will happen.”

Hurd said she finds evidence for her treatment in the principles of organic chemistry and tailors a strict diet plan to her clients accordingly. Although her methods don’t follow mainstream medicine, she said her success rate is nearly 100 percent, not including those who don’t follow the diet plans or whose illnesses have congenital complications. But Hurd doesn’t want to replace traditional medicine, she said, but to complement it.

“If you’re in a car wreck, please don’t come see me,” Hurd said.

One of Hurd’s clients is Jay Lovelady, 50, of Chetek, who said he first went to Hurd two years ago, when he was taking 14 pills a day for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“I had been sent to dietitians before, but they did absolutely nothing for me,” Lovelady said, “but allow me to continue to get worse following their diet plans.”

Now, Lovelady is on a strict diet plan through Hurd, and he said his cholesterol and blood pressure are back to normal levels.

“I’ve done this all under the watch of my doctor, and he said ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,'” Lovelady said. “I’m no longer a heart-attack candidate. Even my doctor admits I’m no longer a diabetic.”

Lovelady said he hopes the legislation will not pass because of the limits it would impose on Hurd and other practitioners who provide dietetic therapy.

“If you take away what is a real, actual cure for a lot of problems that’s not used everywhere else,” Lovelady said, “it’s going to be devastating.”

Boschma can be reached at janie.boschma@ecpc.com, 715-830-5832 or 800-236-7077, ext. 3832.

If You Go

What: Legislative breakfast hosted by the National Nutritional Wellness Association. Karen Hurd has organized the breakfast to protest Senate Bill 115 and Assembly Bill 440.

When: 8 a.m. Monday.