As the population ages, older adult malnutrition is becoming a crisis in America. Estimates are that the cost of disease-associated malnutrition in older adults is $51.3 billion per year, and up to one out of every two older adults are at risk of becoming malnourished. Malnutrition leads to an increased risk for falls and readmissions, longer hospital stays, and poorer patient outcomes—all of which impact healthy aging. However, older adult malnutrition is often unrecognized—and thus, it remains a hidden epidemic.
New National Blueprint on Malnutrition Advances Integrated Solutions
What’s needed is a detailed plan of action, and that is just what’s provided in the new National Blueprint: Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults. A broad group of advocates laid out this roadmap which was released at the recent annual conference of the American Society on Aging. The Blueprint calls for a range of strategies to be implemented across the healthcare institution and community spectrum, with four primary goals: improving quality care practices, improving access, generating research, and advancing public health.
"Malnutrition is a legitimate and growing public health threat to older adults, both in health care settings and in the community. This National Blueprint is one of the most comprehensive approaches taken to date to address malnutrition and older adults. We want it to be a pathway toward raising greater public awareness. We specifically want it to be the catalyst to prompt a greater federal response, especially establishing national goals and improving access to high quality malnutrition care and nutrition services. This could start with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) integrating malnutrition care in quality programs and care models across care settings," said Bob Blancato, Chair, American Society on Aging, and National Coordinator, Defeat Malnutrition Today.
Adoption of best practices and quality measures helps advance quality malnutrition care
The main cause for the malnutrition epidemic, according to the Blueprint, is that current malnutrition best practices, standards and screening tools have not been "systematically adopted into routine quality medical care or adopted across care settings." It also says that despite agreeing malnutrition is a serious issue, CMS does not yet include malnutrition care in healthcare quality incentive programs or require health care providers to report malnutrition as a key health indicator for older adults. The Blueprint focuses on helping address these and other gaps.
The good news is on April 14, CMS followed the recommendation of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and a coalition of senior advocate and patient organizations by proposing the adoption of malnutrition-focused quality measures into a future Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program.
"If the proposed rule is finalized, it would be the first time CMS has included malnutrition care in a quality program, which gives health care providers incentives to report performance on quality measures," said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President, Lucille Beseler.
Defeat Malnutrition today coalition advocates for better malnutrition care for healthy aging
Older adult malnutrition is a complex issue, and we need to work together to address it. To that end, the Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition has formed. It is a diverse alliance of over 55 national, state, and local stakeholders and organizations, including community, healthy aging, nutrition, advocacy, healthcare professional, faith-based, and private sector groups, including the International Council on Active Aging. The coalition shares the goal of achieving the recognition of malnutrition as a key indicator and vital sign of older adult health.
To distill the power of the stakeholders in this group, the coalition along with Avalere Health formed the Malnutrition Quality Collaborative, which created the Blueprint. The Blueprint “outlines specific goals and strategies to promote and achieve high-quality malnutrition care across the continuum of acute, post-acute, and community settings,” and it brings in strategies for organizations, government entities, communities, and older adults and their families and caregivers to use in battling malnutrition.
One section of the Blueprint provides the perfect closing for this post:
“The time to act is now! In a healthcare environment focused on ‘healthy aging,’ preventive care, patient-centeredness, and cost efficiency — systematic malnutrition screening and appropriate multi-disciplinary intervention must become a mainstay of U.S. healthcare.
Meredith Ponder Whitmire, Policy Director of the Defeat Malnutrition Today Coalition
Note: This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research. The view expressed here are not necessarily those of the ICAA, we encourage you to make your own health and business decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified professional.