Thursday, February 2, 2012

Legislation Week!

Unlike most weeks, I’m not posting a long research article today. Why?

I’ve spent the last two days in Annapolis working with the MDANP to secure a naturopathic licensure law in the state of Maryland. If you’re a Maryland resident, or know someone who lives in Maryland, go check out the MDANP website to find out how to get involved.

Here’s some basic reasons to support licensure of NDs in Maryland (briefly and succinctly):

1. NDs focus on preventive medicine. Diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are major public health problems, and can be prevented in a significant number of cases through preventive care. NDs have long recognized the value of an ounce of prevention compared to a pound of cure, and because of our education’s focus on diet and lifestyle, we are in a strong position to help the community tackle these conditions before they arise.

2. NDs save the healthcare system (and businesses) money. Because naturopathic doctors focus on diet and lifestyle, and do not rely on costly pharmaceuticals, NDs have the potential to save the healthcare system significant amounts of money. Studies in Vermont, Oregon, Ontario and Washington have documented significant direct and indirect healthcare savings from naturopathic primary care. Licensing NDs makes a lot of economic sense.

3. Patient safety. The people have spoken and they want naturopathic medicine. The profession, though still relatively small, is growing at a rate of about 400-500 providers per year, and they are going to all 50 states. Because it’s a national phenomenon, people living in unlicensed states are seeking naturopathic care, but aren’t guaranteed that the person they see has been trained at an accredited school. As in the days before the medical profession was fully regulated, there are providers out there who are not qualified to provide care. Licensure laws guarantee that anyone using the term ‘naturopathic doctor’ or ‘naturopathic physician’ has been trained at a four-year accredited school and is qualified to practice.

4. There’s a shortage of primary care providers. This is a point where I frequently have to educate about naturopathic medical education. Having received my training in Seattle, Washington, I was trained to practice to the full scope of a primary care provider, from putting in stitches, to annual gyn exams, to making sure a patient was up to date with colonoscopies. States that license naturopathic physicians don't always license them to to fill this primary care role, but it is within our training to act as such. The shortage of primary care providers is well documented, and as more people enter the healthcare system, it’s only going to get worse. Plain and simple, we need more people on the ground practicing healthcare.

If you haven’t done your part to support the bill, please do so now. Let your senators and representatives know that you support licensure of NDs in Maryland (or wherever else you may live!).