BAPEN, the UK's leading charitable association that is working to combat malnutrition, is urging everyone this autumn that are caring for someone who is elderly or vulnerable and needs a flu or pneumonia jab to also take time to check they are not at risk of malnutrition.
Malnutrition is a major clinical and public health problem that is usually only detected when a person is admitted to hospital but it originates in the community – when people at risk are living in their own home but unable to look after themselves properly.
Malnutrition or undernutrition can affect anyone and may be caused by an inadequate diet or a problem absorbing nutrients from food. This may be the result of:
- a recent stay in hospital
- a long term health condition
- low income
- bereavement or social isolation.
BAPEN recently launched its Malnutrition Self Screening Tool – an easy and free to use web based tool designed to help people identify those (adults) at risk in the community – either themselves or someone they care for. It is based on weight status and history of weight loss, using the criteria already incorporated into the ‘Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool’ (‘MUST’)(1), the most widely used screening tool in the UK.
Individuals identified as being at risk of malnutrition, can download a dietary advice sheet that gives them basic information and suggestions for improving their nutritional intake, until they receive further advice from a healthcare professional. This dietary advice sheet which was developed as a consensus recommendation by a wide range of professional organisations and originates from the ‘Malnutrition Pathway’, provides guidance to GPs and other healthcare professionals on the management of malnutrition in the community (2).
Self-screening could help in the prevention and management of malnutrition. If malnutrition were identified and treated early it could prevent unnecessary suffering and unnecessary GP consultations and hospital admissions. Data from BAPEN’s Nutrition Screening Week surveys has shown that almost 30% patients on admission to hospitals in the UK are at risk of malnutrition, much of which could have been identified and treated in the community(3).
The new Malnutrition Self-Screening Tool can be accessed at www.malnutritionselfscreening.org
- The ‘Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool’ (‘MUST’)
- Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community (2012)
- Russell C A and Elia M.(2014) Nutrition Screening Surveys in Hospitals in the UK, 2007-2011*.BAPEN
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