Recent research tracking over a thousand patients in 20 hospitals found that 45 percent were discharged at risk for malnutrition or were severely malnourished. But with emerging coordinated effort and science, these numbers can be reduced.
Disease-Related Malnutrition (DRM) is associated with poor outcomes such as health complications, longer hospital stays and higher readmission rates. This has galvanized new action to address DRM for better patient outcomes and health system performance—especially considering that improving detection, identification and tracking is within our reach.
Dr. Leah Gramlich, a medical professor at the University of Alberta, and one of the founders of the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force (CMTF), has joined with colleagues and other advocates in the U.S., Europe and across the globe to better identify, detect, prevent and treat malnutrition in hospital settings.
“People think of malnutrition as a problem in the developing world, not in North America, but evidence shows it can be problematic in health care settings if it’s not addressed,” according to Gramlich.
Part of the effort is to have nutrition care recognized as a human right by states and policymakers to improve accountability for nutrition care. In Canada, Gramlich’s team is building an alliance across Provincial Governments as healthcare funding is handled at that level of government.
They are also focusing their efforts on addressing, acknowledging and taking policy actions so key decision-makers are accountable. In this way, states, policies and managers can contribute to the improvement of nutrition care resulting in fewer patients discharged with poor nutrition status.
Gramlich says that blaming bad hospital food for the problem is too easy. As Food Management recently reported Carle Hospital in Illinois refreshed their food service offerings with scratch-made recipes. This article on the transformative steps they have taken has attracted significant attention and other hospital systems are sure to follow.
CMTF is promoting both bottom-up and top-down approaches to this work. This involves engagement with the United Nations and the World Health Organization to develop ‘National Alliances’ that support better nutrition care for individuals in hospitals and the community. Likewise, they are fostering dialogue to improve local action on hospital nutrition within multiple countries. Aligning actors and actions is the goal as an umbrella of stakeholders consolidate, align and reinforce standards for nutrition care.
Their objectives include:
- Raising awareness of DRM
- Identifying key strategies in malnutrition prevention, detection and treatment
- Creating a platform for sharing best practices and policies
- Promoting approaches to addressing DRM
The Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS) is co-sponsoring a May 5 workshop just before the Canadian Nutrition Society’s Annual Meeting to support this important effort. By elevating nutrition and food safety science in this way, IAFNS seeks opportunities to impact nutrition care and the health status of patients during and after discharge.
Sometimes the greatest opportunities for reducing risks are right at our doorstep. To IAFNS and others, DRM is not a developing world problem but has become a ‘low-hanging fruit’ to improve public health right here at home. Please consider joining us on May 5 to advance this critical effort.