Publication Details

This article was originally published as Walton, KL, Treating malnutrition in hospitals : dietitians in the driving seat, Nutrition & Dietetics, 66(4), 2009, 202-205. Original journal article available here


Although the problem of malnutrition in hospitals is not new,1,2 it is still a serious concern in Australian hospitals today. The population is ageing and patients are admitted with multiple medical problems placing them at increased risk of malnutrition. Malnutrition prevalence rates in Australian hospitals have ranged from 6-53%.3-13 The wide variation is due to different study settings; the time between admission and assessment, and the assessment tool used. Malnutrition is a considerable problem that increases with age. Patients over 80 years have a higher odds risk of being malnourished compared with those between 61-80 years.9 Chronically ill patients, many of whom are elderly, will be in and out of hospital regularly. Adequate flagging of these patients on admission is required, as is appropriate follow up at discharge. Patients with a reduced energy intake the month before hospitalisation have been shown to have a reduced nutritional status compared to other patients.14 Further examination of malnutrition in medical patients has highlighted a second group of patients, who while not malnourished on admission, are at high risk of becoming so.15 These patients need to be identified early and treated effectively to minimise a further decline in nutritional status.16



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