Re: Recent petition to ‘protect “nutritionist” as a professional designation for Registered Dietitians’

Currently in Ontario, the Registered Dietitians (RDs) want the word “nutritionist” to be exclusively used by registered dietitians because they believe that the word is “widely misunderstood by the public” and they state “the ultimate goal of this initiative is to protect the public and ensure that appropriately trained nutrition experts are relied upon to provide nutrition care.” Yes, confusion may occur if a practitioner is not accurately identifying themselves as to whether they are either practicing dietetic nutrition or holistic nutrition, and there may be danger to the public if the practitioner doesn’t have any formal training. For it is true that Dietitians and Holistic Nutritionists each have unique approaches to nutrition and each use diverse nutritional tools to help their clients.

The Ontario Dietitians suggest that, because they are regulated under the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA), only they are able to provide ‘safe, ethical and competent healthcare’. Holistic nutrition is indeed a self-regulated industry, but in the 23 years that the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) has been in existence, we have never heard of a court case against a CSNN graduate (i.e. – a Holistic Nutritionist that has graduated from CSNN) because they have ‘done harm’ to one of their clients. CSNN graduates are required to follow a Code of Ethics and Scope of Practice. So where is the danger to the public that the Ontario Dietitians feel they need to avert? And why haven’t they shared that the reason holistic nutrition has grown over the past 20+ years is because it is an effective approach that produces results and has safely helped the public with their health issues. Holistic Nutrition has grown because you ‘the public’ have been looking for an alternative approach to nutrition.

The Ontario Dietitians are also declaring that only the education they receive is “credible”. As CSNN’s Executive Director, I can only speak about the education that our graduates receive (not to discredit other credible schools in the industry): CSNN’s Natural Nutrition program comprehensively trains Holistic Nutrition Professionals who are qualified to give individualized holistic recommendations, and provide clients with the tools needed for them to take a preventive or proactive approach to their own health. One-third of CSNN’s Natural Nutrition program hours are science courses, and each of the 17 courses in the program have extensive testing; students have to submit case studies; the program has qualifying board exams, and in order to earn the Natural Nutrition diploma, students must obtain a minimum of 80% overall in the program. CSNN’s curriculum is reviewed by the provincial education ministries that regulate private career colleges so CSNN’s education is, in fact, respectively ‘credible’.

The Ontario Dietitians want the word ‘nutritionist’ to be used exclusively by Registered Dietitians, but this word has different meanings in different contexts. Again, holistic nutrition is not the same type of nutrition that dietitians practice. So, if the Ontario Dietitians want to help the public understand, why don’t they make it clear to the public that they practice ‘dietetic nutrition’ since they are Dietitians? And Holistic Nutritionists can make it clear to the public that they practice holistic nutrition. Otherwise, the public will be even more confused if after decades of calling themselves Holistic Nutritionists, these practitioners are suddenly no longer allowed to call themselves that.

As a member of the public, you have the right to the best health care you can find. Take the time to find out for yourself what an Ontario Dietitian practices and what an Ontario Holistic Nutritionist practices. Thousands of credible Holistic Nutritionists in Ontario who have legitimate holistic nutrition practices and who genuinely help the public could potentially be negatively affected, if the Ontario Dietitians accomplish their goals with this petition initiative.

Written by Rose O’Leary, Executive Director, CSNN