It is still widely believed that malnutrition is a problem restricted to the developing world. Sadly, this is not true. Today, in the UK, millions of friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues are at risk of the effects of malnutrition. Malnutrition and mortality are usually closely linked. Malnutrition lengthens hospital stays, reduces quality of life and increases the risk of developing other diseases. The cost of malnutrition in England alone was estimated to be £19.6 billion per year in 2011/12, or more than 15% of the total public expenditure on health and social care.
The reasons why people become malnourished are varied - it may be because they cannot afford food, can't properly prepare it due to physical disabilities, have lost their appetite or have another healthcare condition that makes eating and drinking more difficult. Older people aged over 65 are more likely than any other age group to suffer from malnutrition. Sadly, it reduced appetitite and weight loss have become regarded by some as a normal sign of getting older - but this isn't true.
COVID-19 will be making many of these issues worse. That's why we joined the UK Malnutrition Awareness and Prevention Network (MAPN) to call on government to take action to avoid a "perfect storm for malnutrition".
The BDA is delighted to have supported UK Malnutrition Awareness Week 2020 which ran from 5-12 October 2020. During the week, we joined colleagues from BAPEN and the Malnutrition Task Force to raise public awareness of malnutrition and help people look out for signs and symptoms.
BAPEN, the Malnutrition Task Force and the BDA united to arrange an online parliamentary event during Malnutrition Awareness Week on Wednesday 7 October. Over a dozen MPs and peers attended to learn more about malnutrition, with many promising to champion the issue in parliament. Read this blog from our chair, Caroline Bovey and the other dietitians who attended.
Although MAW2020 itself is over, we are still asking for your help to get as many individuals working in health and social care settings to screen for malnutrition using ‘MUST’ and to record any nutritional care a person is given during October. Our colleagues at BAPEN have set up an online portal where you can submit your data. This information help inform and influence policy making on malnutrition and raise awareness. They have also published a report on the screening from autumn 2019, which found 42% of those screened in hopsitals and care homes were at risk of malnutrition (13% were medium and 29% were high risk).
You can also use these materials, facts and figures, plus your own personal experiences of tackling malnutrition, to highlight the scale of the problem locally at any time. Maybe write to your MP, or take an opportunity to highlight it in an elevator pitch next time you see your trust chief executive!
BDA and OPSG resources