One in ten older people may be at risk of malnutrition

September 25, 2018

Hertfordshire is leading the way in the battle against malnutrition in the first ever national Malnutrition Awareness Week, which will take place from 1st to 7th October.

Over 20,000 Hertfordshire residents may be at risk of malnutrition, with 93% of these cases affecting people living in the community. To increase awareness of this issue and teach people about the importance of good nutrition, a group of local Hertfordshire organisations are leading the way by organising community-based malnutrition screenings and a community open day.

2018 marks the first national campaign to raise awareness about malnutrition, and is being led on a country-wide level by the nutrition research charity BAPEN, and the national Malnutrition Task Force.

Every day, obesity dominates media attention, but it is estimated that at least 10% of those aged over 65 are at serious risk of malnutrition. Malnutrition is an invisible public health crisis costing an estimated £19.6 billion to health and social care annually. The majority of people are unaware that being undernourished can lead to complex health issues such as increased risk of infection, a weaker immune system, and muscle weakness resulting in falls or fractures.

The county’s meals on wheels provider, Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), Public Health Hertfordshire, and the University of Hertfordshire, have joined forces with local libraries, care providers, and student volunteers to set up over a dozen free malnutrition screening points across the county throughout the week.

Malnutrition can be identified using a validated screening tool. A screening pack has been developed to help people do this themselves, or with their loved ones, or for community group leaders to do this with their group members.

The Jubilee Centre on Catherine’s Street in St Albans is also hosting a community open day on October 3rd. On the day, local residents can come for free practical nutrition training with HILS’ dedicated dietitians and free malnutrition screenings. Attendees will also have an opportunity to try out a new game designed by the University of Hertfordshire and Focus Games to teach people about nutrition for older adults.

“Unfortunately, most people see losing weight as a natural part of ageing – but unintentional weight loss can actually be very dangerous” said Sarah Wren MBE, Chief Executive of HILS. “When our meal delivery drivers notice that someone is losing weight, they tell our Nutrition and Wellbeing visitors who screen and support hundreds of people every year to help them achieve healthy weight gain. We want to spread the word that if an older person who you know is finding that their clothes and jewellery are becoming loose and that they are losing weight, there is help available for them.”

Resources to download:

Malnutrition Screening Pack – contains instructions for doing the screenings and general information about the campaign.

Now you have your ‘MUST’ score… What Next? Information about your ‘MUST’ score and what it means:

High MUST score

Medium MUST score

Low MUST score

Scan and share ‘Malnutrition Myths’ flyer – this can be used as the basis of a group activity or just for information.

Support and ‘Official Screening Point’ posters – these can be stuck up to indicate that this is an official part of the campaign and invite people to be screened.

About Malnutrition

Malnutrition (i.e. literally poor or bad nutrition) is characterised by low body weight or weight loss, meaning simply that some people are not eating well enough to maintain their health and wellbeing. The weight loss is usually unintentional and often goes unrecognised until it starts to seriously undermine a person’s health and wellbeing. Anyone can become malnourished, but people over 65 are at particular risk. Malnutrition can affect every system in the body. It can lead to a weaker immune system, increasing risk of infections, poor wound healing, muscle weakness, and reduced ability to perform normal tasks, which can result in falls and fractures.

About BAPEN (the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition)

BAPEN is a multi-professional association and registered charity established in 1992. The organisation raises awareness of malnutrition and works towards advancing the nutritional care of patients and those at risk of malnutrition in the wider community.

About the Malnutrition Task Force

The Malnutrition Task Force is an independent group of experts across health, social care and local government united to address avoidable and preventable malnutrition in older people. Established in 2012, the organisation aims to share its collective expertise and work with partners in hospitals, care homes, local authorities and private and voluntary organisations.

About Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS)

Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), is a charitable, not-for-profit social enterprise which delivers meals on wheels and other caring services 365 days a year across Hertfordshire, to help people stay happy, healthy, and independent. Four sites in Hertfordshire: Letchworth, Hemel, St Albans & Ware. HILS has grown rapidly in ten years to become the country’s largest and only growing charitable meals on wheels service, delivering around 1,500 meals every day. Since 2015, HILS also delivers free nutrition and dietetics support services to help identify people who are at risk of malnutrition and help them achieve healthy weight gain.