July 15, 2016
By: Olivia Wagner
United We Stand at the 2016 Public Policy Workshop
Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to gather with over 325 passionate dietitians in our Nations Capitol for the Academy’s annual Public Policy Workshop (PPW). Dietitians representing each of the 50 states as well as Academy DPG’s and MIG’s, banded together to storm “The Hill” and communicate nutrition policy issues and on behalf of EACH dietitian across the United States.
This was my second year attending, and although considered a “veteran”, I still feel slightly like a newbie to the world of policy and just how much activism impacts our profession.
As an eager and motivated group, we stood together with one common goal: to speak on behalf of each dietitian across the United States and communicate policies that will positively impact the health of our nation and the dietetics profession.
Hey, If we as nutrition professional don’t speak up for the fate of nutrition policy within this country, who will?
The Key Issues: PPW 2016
This year we armed ourselves with statistics and stories to inspire members of congress to support the Treat & Reduce Obesity Act, Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act, and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.
Treat & Reduce Obesity Act in Medicare: This bill will allow Medicare to cover dietitian visits for both obesity and obesity prevention.
Preventing Diabetes in Medicare: Currently, only individuals with diabetes are covered by insurance for nutrition services. Passing this bill will allow those diagnosed with prediabetes to ALSO work with a dietitian and learn about the lifestyle changes necessary to prevent diabetes.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act: Some of the incredible programs put in place to support food security and nutrition education (ie. WIC and the National School Lunch Program) were up for reviews that would alter their prevalence and funding significantly. We were asking our congressmen to oppose these revisions and support keeping the programs already in place.
Main driving points
There were a few main messages we prioritized when creating communication strategy to share in our meetings and inspire legislatures to support these major bills.
Prevalence of nutrition related health issues: Bringing additional awareness to the severity of our Nation's health crisis and how the nutrition prevention policies presented can help to reduce their overall prevalence.
A few facts we drove home:
- Over one-quarter of the Medicare- eligible population (11.2 million over age 65) has diabetes.
- Medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist is an effective, evidence-based program that can result in weight loss, obesity prevention and improved pre-diabetes insulin markers.
- More than 35% of adults are living with obesity and an additional 33% are overweight. This represents more than 2/3 of the adult population.
- One out of every eight deaths in America is caused by an illness directly related to obesity.
- By 2040, it is estimated that over 50% of adults will be living with obesity and the Medicare population is the fastest growing demographic with obesity.
- More than one in five American households and one in ten children still experience food insecurity.
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
Sharing the clinical effectiveness of MNT is significantly effective:
Cost effectiveness of MNT:
- RDNs are 2x as likely to help patients lose significant weight and increase exercise.
- Experts agree, RDNs are the most qualified food and nutrition experts, according to Institute of Medicine (IOM), MDs, and the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Money is ALWAYS a hot topic. MNT services by an RDN cost significantly less than doctor visits, medications, and hospital stays. Here's why:
- The total cost of diabetes to our healthcare system in 2012 was estimated to be $322 billion.
- Obesity costs $210 billion/year and $64 billion/year to Medicare.
- RDNs bill less than other providers, leading to better results at a lower cost.
- Support for Nutrition Programs: Nutrition programming at the early level is necessary to promote positive nutrition habits and establish preventative health moving forward. These programs deserve continued funding and future expansion
- Children's test scores are higher when they are fed healthy foods, which leads to healthier adults.
Lets storm The Hill!
So what does this actually mean? What steps are needed to prepare? Prior to arriving in DC, each state Public Policy Coordinator (PPC) schedules meetings with the Congressmen and Senators of their states respective districts. At the workshop, the representing dietitians from each state sit down to review the Academy’s specific key issues and talk strategy for effectively communicating nutrition message at set meetings. After one day of “policy pump up”, in the form of powerful presentations by Lucille Beseler, Lorri Holzberg, Carol Brunzell, and Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and fine-tuning our nutrition policy skillset, we are ready to travel in groups to Capitol Hill where the legislatures offices reside. On ‘The Hill” we attend the appointments previously set up by the PPC previously set up and have the opportunity to meet with either a legislative aid or one on one with congressman or senator.
Meeting face to face provides opportunity to really build a relationship with these affiliates and inspire them to prioritize nutrition policy in their office for the health of their constituents!
Want to join in on the fun?
You TOO can attend the public policy workshop! If you are eager to learn more about nutrition activism and policy, check out the Academy's page on Advocacy here.
Promote activism from home!
Responding to Action Alerts is one way that you can better support both national nutrition policy and advocacy for our profession. For current action alerts, check out the Academy's Action Center here and start promoting policy today with just a click of a button!
Overall this year’s public policy workshop in DC was educating, invigorating, and inspiring. I definitely feel well equipped to storm The Hill for a 3rd time next year! If you are interested in learning more about the Public Policy Workshop and ways to get involved in nutrition advocacy, please contact Olivia Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org.