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Hunger in Irish Patients a Very Real Issue

664 375 123 image logo lgThe first Irish "Nutrition Screening Week" takes place Jan 12th - 14th 2010 with members of the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute (INDI) participating to establish current, accurate figures and evidence on the prevalence of malnutrition among Irish patients in hospitals and residential settings.

Nutrition Screening Week (NSW) is an initiative started by the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition {BAPEN} and involves taking simple heights and weights of patients and monitoring their dietary intake whilst in hospital. This assessment is also known as the MUST tool and this is endorsed by the Department of Health and Children.

In Ireland, studies in 2000 found that 11% of patients admitted to hospital were malnourished and between 63 and 84% were at nutritional risk. In the UK, malnutrition affects 10-55% of ill adults in hospital and in the community.
Other studies indicate that at any given time, about 93% of malnutrition occurs in the community, about 2% in hospitals and the remaining 5% approximately equally divided between nursing and residential homes.

Malnutrition has a wide range of adverse consequences including the following:

• Impaired immune responses with increased risk of infection and reduced ability to fight infection once established.

• Impaired wound healing and delayed recovery from illness

• Reduction of appetite and impaired ability to eat

• Increased risk of admission to hospital and length of stay

• Higher rates of mortality

Malnutrition is a burden to patients, health and social services and society in general, with an estimated public expenditure that has recently been calculated at over £13 billion a year in the UK.

Malnutrition can affect all age groups but the elderly and those already suffering from various conditions and diseases are at a higher risk.

“ Identifying the prevalence of malnutrition in Ireland will help stakeholders to identify where additional resources are required to address this very real health issue in patients and assist in creating care plans in health & residential centres” according to Margot Brennan PRO of the INDI .

“Malnutrition may not always be an obvious area of concern among the general public, as attention is focused at levels of obesity and overweight which continue to rise, but malnutrition is a very real issue that exists not only to patients who suffer with associated health problems but also to the public purse, as it is a high cost to the health service.

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