Changes in current laws to address malnutrition in seniors—including greater use of registered dietitians, nutrition screening and counseling in the Older Americans Act; greater focus on nutrition in care transition grants under the Affordable Care Act; and coverage for oral nutrition supplements for at-risk older adults—all should be on the agenda for the new Congress, says Robert Blancato, MPA, of Matz, Blancato & Associates.
He was a faculty adviser to the latest issue of the What’s Hot newsletter from the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), which maintains that healthcare systems and providers are not attuned to older adults’ malnutrition risk. Ignoring malnutrition, the publication says, exacts a toll on providers, individuals and payers.
“This issue of What’s Hot points to a growing but still unaddressed epidemic of malnutrition, especially among older adults,” Blancato said in a statement. He heads the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs. “It makes a strong case for modest but important changes in current laws, which can address malnutrition and achieve the dual desirable goals of improving health and reducing healthcare costs,” he added.
Malnutrition cuts across all weight categories, from underweight to obese, according to the newsletter. An estimated one-third to one-half of U.S. adults are malnourished or at risk for malnourishment upon admission to the hospital, and longer hospital stays are associated with worsening nutritional status. Additionally, about half of older adults in rehabilitation settings are malnourished. Despite these statistics, only about one-fourth of U.S. medical schools provide at least 25 hours of nutrition instruction for medical students as is recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.
Support for the publication was provided by Abbott.