BAPEN was pleased to see the recent announcement from Public Health England, the Centre for Ageing Better, and partners, that they are pledging to support healthier lives for those aged 65 and over.
This is a well-timed statement falling as it does during UK Malnutrition Awareness Week, a week which includes a focus on raising awareness of the impact of malnutrition in older people living in the UK.
In particular we welcome the commitment to ‘putting prevention first and ensuring timely access to services and support where needed’, and we would like the signatories to this letter to think about how this could and should incorporate better attention focused on prevention of malnutrition. 1.3 million people aged over 65 are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. One third of people in this age group are found to be at risk when they are admitted to hospital, and the same proportion are discovered to be at risk on admittance to a care home. At BAPEN, we believe that more should be done to identify people when they first become vulnerable, as it is so much harder (and more costly) to manage them once they are in a setting and further down the malnutrition path.
The pledge from the above partners calls for awareness raising and empowerment so that people can be in control of their own health. Sadly, we believe that public health messages around weight management and diet are not nuanced enough to make this a possibility, hence us running our own awareness week to try and alert people who may be at risk of becoming malnourished and experiencing potentially catastrophic consequences. This problem already costs the health service more than obesity, and with a rapidly ageing population, future management is likely to be unsustainable. When looking at healthy ageing, let this issue not be forgotten.