The COVID-19 pandemic potentially worsens the existing malnutrition crisis for older adults. Malnutrition can make active aging difficult, as it impedes the physical dimension of wellness. It’s estimated 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 is at-risk of becoming malnourished. Malnutrition leads to an increased risk of complications and hospital readmissions, longer hospital stays, and poorer patient outcomes— all of which negatively impact active aging.
The updated National Blueprint advances integrated solutions for malnutrition
The National Blueprint: Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults, 2020 Update calls for a range of strategies to be implemented across the continuum of care, including through community and telehealth services. The Blueprint has four primary goals:
- Improve the quality of malnutrition care practices
- Improve access to high quality malnutrition care and nutrition services
- Generate research on malnutrition care
- Advance public health efforts for malnutrition care.
Successes of the National Blueprint
In 2017, the first version of the Blueprint was released by Defeat Malnutrition Today, Avalere Health, and other multidisciplinary stakeholders. Since its release, the Blueprint’s recommendations have come to fruition in:
- A 2019 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on nutrition assistance programs
- The 2020 Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorization
- Many other achievements outlined in Appendix A (page 45).
Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition advocates for better malnutrition care
Older adult malnutrition is a multifaceted issue, and we need to work together to address it. The Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition is a diverse alliance of over 100 national, state, and local stakeholders and organizations, 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.
The time to act is now!
The complex causes of older adult malnutrition require collaboration among many organizations, government bodies, and communities to find solutions. In a healthcare environment with a continued focus on healthy aging, preventive care, person-centeredness, and cost efficiency, systematic malnutrition screening and appropriate multidisciplinary intervention must become a mainstay of healthcare internationally. The updated Blueprint offers strategies across all points of care, and ICAA members can use the Blueprint’s recommendations to deliver high-quality malnutrition care and continue to promote active aging.
Bob Blancato is the National Coordinator of the Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition.
Support for the National Blueprint was provided by Abbott.