- MEETINGS & EVENTS
Updates from the Public Policy Workshop 2017
Who knew that stepping way outside of one’s comfort zone could be so rewarding? That’s what happened to me, a new-to- the-industry professional, currently working at the critical access hospital in Knoxville. It seems like all I have been doing since returning to school as a full-time student in 2013 is stretching and working towards one goal after another. First: the Dietetics degree, then the Dietetic Internship, followed by passing the big exam. Next step: gain work experience to help me find my niche in the current job market. Who knew that my fifteen years of previous employee benefit and health insurance experience would be such an asset in today’s politically-charged work environment! That past experience now provides a unique lens through which to view future job opportunities for me, as well my fellow Iowa dietitians.
I am proud to now serve as co-chair for Reimbursement for the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, with Carrie Leiran. In April of this year, Carrie and I were at the Des Moines Capitol, advocating for IAND and all Iowa dietitians/diet technicians on two bills that would have weakened the value of dietitians. From there, Carrie encouraged me to consider applying for a scholarship to AND’s 2017 Public Policy Workshop in D.C., and I can tell you I am so glad I did! The Academy provided excellent training webinars and materials to prepare for the “big event” – visiting in person our fine Iowa representatives in Washington, D.C., and advocating for what we and The Academy have worked so hard for: to be viewed as valued and highly competent professionals with expertise in nutrition and prevention.
Visiting with Representative David Young, Senator Chuck Grassley, and the assistant for Senator Joni Ernst opened my eyes to the realization that they are people doing their jobs, just like I do. They need to hear from constituents like you and me, so they know what we believe is important and what we do to help the patients and clients that we serve in our day-to- day work. Attending the PPW and then visiting with our legislators made me realize that getting involved with advocacy is so much bigger than just me – putting myself out there, led to tremendous personal growth. Yes, it was uncomfortable, and yes, I made some mistakes, but I did it, with the hope of helping my profession and my dietitian friends.
After storming the Hill with the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I could not be any
more fired up to continue advocating for our profession at a national level. After all, dietetics is
my profession, but policy is my passion, and the way to make change is to take action! I am very
grateful for the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. with the group at such a pivotal time
in my career. The day before my flight took off the ground, I graduated from a 10-month long
dietetic internship at the Minneapolis VA Medical center where I received an incredible hands-
on education with our country’s heroes. It seemed fitting that a day later I was able to see
national monuments like the Korean War monument and even hear certain fallen soldiers’
names from countries all around the world be recognized along with their respective national
anthems. The amount of rich history in the nation’s capitol is mind-boggling and to get the
chance to be at the foot of such iconic gems like the Lincoln memorial and the White House was
I was also excited to see such an incredible turn out at the public policy workshop. Over 300
students and PPW veterans gathered around tables and cheered each other on as the group
engaged in role playing scenarios to mimic what it would be like to talk directly with a
congressman or senator. I was so nervous in preparing my story to share with my congressman,
knowing that I had to keep it short and sweet yet impactful. IAND representatives were very
encouraging, however, and provided me with great feedback and constructive criticism that I
could take away and learn from. Overall, the group’s sessions with representatives went very
well, and I can only hope they will take the message of preventative health as an investment in
our country to heart. I can’t imagine a more critical time than now to be participating in the
legislative process no matter how big or small. While waiting in the lobby of Joni Ernst’s office,
the phones were ringing off the hook as constituents were voicing their concerns about
revisions to the Farm Bill and the future of our nation’s health care. It was heart warming to
know people still care enough to get directly involved, and they aren’t disenchanted with the
seemingly deadlocked nature of our political system. Instead, the clerks were taking notes on
these phone calls kindly responding, “I will let the senator know you called; your call is very
important to us.” Though there will be record of these phone calls saved somewhere, PPW
taught me what makes the most impression on representatives are the in-person visits. The
ability to share face-to- face with your representative a personal story from working in the field
is what will be remembered when the time comes to cast a vote.
The IAND president-elect told me practice makes perfect when it comes to forming a 3-minute
spiel to congressmen. Though my first time may have been slightly rusty, I am not discouraged;
instead, I’m excited to continue the push forward and can’t wait to return to PPW in future
years. I can definitely envision weaving nutrition policy into a future career and am looking
forward to professional life as a Registered Dietitian.
Thank you again for allowing me this incredible opportunity.
At this year’s Public Policy Workshop in Washington, D.C., a great time was had by all. Eight
members of IAND prepared for the workshop by viewing five different webinars provided by AND
discussing the issue briefs we would later discuss with Iowa Representatives while on the hill. In recent
years issues discussed were the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act (TROA), Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act and the National Clinical Care Commission Act. Dietitians nationwide need to continue encouraging their Representatives to sign on to these bills and move our profession forward.
This year three new issues were focused on. First, the Resolution for the Academy’s Centennial.
We are fortunate in Iowa to have had Senator Chuck Grassley sponsor this bill. Next, RDNs stressed the importance of the Prevention Fund and the value of nutrition services in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. This proved to be very timely with the recent release of the draft Senate version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. It was exciting to discuss the role dietitians play in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases when health care reform is such a hot topic. Finally,
nutrition education programs and the farm bill were addressed. As you may already know, every five years the farm bill expires. Prior to that expiration the bill is reviewed, changes are proposed, debated and passed by Congress and finally signed into law by the President. With discussion of the farm bill slated to begin this fall, dietitians stressed the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program nutrition education programs (SNAP-Ed), as well as the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). As Iowans, our Representatives are invested in agriculture and the farm bill, and this was exemplified by their interest and questions for us.
While on the hill meetings were held with Senators Ernst and Grassley, as well as Representatives Young, King and Loebsack. When a senator or congressman was not available, a meeting was held with one of their staffers. Everyone we met was engaged and had many questions for us. To me this demonstrates the important role RDNs have in making our voices heard and being involved in public policy. Please continue, or begin, advocating for our profession by responding to the Action Alerts sent out by IAND. Let’s work together to move our profession forward!
Lori D. Winborn, MPH, RDN, LD
IAND Public Policy Chair