Malnutrition Awareness Weekby Representative Renee L. Ellmers
Posted on 2015-09-30
of north carolina
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Mrs. ELLMERS of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak
about a hidden epidemic facing millions of Americans and their
families. It is the epidemic of malnutrition, often unrecognized, yet
directly impacting many of our own families and the constituents we
serve. It increases the burden of our nation's health care costs and
hits our elderly and minority communities especially hard according to
a number of studies.
For example, a 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that of older adults living at home, one of every six are malnourished when they enter a hospital. Other studies have shown that an additional 1 in 3 become malnourished while in the hospital. Why is this important? Patients with malnutrition have been shown to potentially heal slower, experience longer hospital stays and be at greater risk for re- hospitalizations and complications.
This economic burden of disease-associated malnutrition is profound. One study estimates that the U.S. burden is roughly $156.7 billion per year--and for those aged 65+ it is estimated to be $51.3 billion per year. As we struggle to contain health care costs and get the most value for patients and our health care dollars, it seems counterintuitive to ignore malnutrition, particularly among our most vulnerable populations.
So what can we do? A broader engagement by the healthcare community is the first step. The critical role of nutrition in the prevention and treatment of disease should have a greater emphasis in physician training. Malnutrition screening should become part of regular patient assessment. Knowing the nutrition status of patients and undertaking appropriate interventions are low-cost, common-sense solutions that will improve health outcomes and save health care dollars.
This week of September 28 through October 2 is Malnutrition Awareness Week. Let's help foster a greater attention to the problem and make a difference through solutions that better support healthy aging among senior citizens across our country. Sometimes the solution is easier than we think.