SummaryCiting alarming statistics that nearly 1 of every 2 older Americans is at risk of malnutrition and that disease-associated malnutrition in older adults is estimated to cost nearly $53 billion annually, a broad group of advocates has presented a updated roadmap for a continuing national effort to help millions of Americans who suffer from malnutrition or could be at risk as they age. The expected rising incidence of malnutrition amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more critical to advance solutions across all points of care.
Released on May 18, 2020, the National Blueprint: Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults, 2020 Update calls for a range of strategies to implement across the healthcare continuum, with 4 primary goals:
- Improving quality care practices
- Improving access
- Generating research
- Advancing public health
Since the original report was released in 2017, some progress toward these goals has been made, such as development of the 2019 US Government Accountability Office report on federal nutrition assistance programs and the reauthorization of the 2020 Older Americans Act, recognizing malnutrition prevention as part of its purpose.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of the World Health Organization’s Decade of Healthy Aging make the release of this updated report particularly timely. “With so many older adults homebound and socially isolated by COVID-19, the incidence of malnutrition may be on the rise and continue to increase for some time to come. With this backdrop and with May being recognized as Older Americans Month, the National Blueprint offers implementation-ready recommendations to help organizations, government bodies, and communities come together to prevent and address malnutrition in older adults,” said Bob Blancato, Chair, American Society on Aging, and National Coordinator, Defeat Malnutrition Today.
The Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition and Avalere Health have led the development of this blueprint through the multi-stakeholder Malnutrition Quality Collaborative that engages experts representing organizations across the continuum of care. Even before the pandemic, these leading organizations pointed to concerning statistics that demonstrate the cost to health from older adult malnutrition and potential savings from following their updated recommendations. For example, protein-calorie malnutrition-related hospital stays are twice as long as the average and 3 times more likely to result in death.
The multiple and complex causes of malnutrition among older adults continue to require collaboration among many organizations, government bodies, and communities to find solutions. This updated national framework continues to offer solutions to this problem across all points of care—including healthcare institutions, community settings, and even telehealth services—through implementation-ready recommendations.
Current malnutrition best practices, standards, and screening tools are not used systematically in routine quality medical care or across care settings, which contributes to the current epidemic of malnutrition. While the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services agrees that malnutrition is a serious issue, malnutrition care is not yet included in inpatient healthcare quality incentive programs. The updated blueprint aims to help address this and other gaps, particularly as growing disparities and social isolation exacerbate the risk of malnutrition and its related negative health outcomes.
“Achieving quality malnutrition care requires collaboration among many organizations, government bodies, and communities. The National Blueprint focuses on the important ways these stakeholders can partner to synergistically address the problem across all points of care—from hospital, to post-hospital, to home and community settings,” said Kristi Mitchell, practice director, Avalere Health.
The National Blueprint: Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults, 2020 Update was developed by the Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition, Avalere Health, and other multidisciplinary stakeholders, with support provided by Abbott.
About Defeat Malnutrition Today
The Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition is a diverse alliance of over 100 national, state, and local stakeholders and organizations, including community, healthy aging, nutrition, advocacy, healthcare professional, faith-based, and private sector groups. The coalition shares the goal of achieving the recognition of malnutrition as a key indicator and vital sign of older adult health; it works to create policy change toward a greater emphasis on screening, detecting, treating, and preventing malnutrition.
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