UK Malnutrition Awareness Week 2019: raising awareness and challenging misconceptions

For the second year running, HILS has partnered with the University of Hertfordshire and other local organisations to join in a national campaign to raise awareness about malnutrition and unintentional weight loss. While anyone could potentially be at risk, older people are disproportionately affected, especially if they are still living at home.

Around one in ten people over the age of 65 is believed to be at risk of malnutrition, with over 90% of these incidents affecting people living in the community. As the County’s meals on wheels provider, Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS) takes food and nutrition very seriously and employs a dedicated team of dietitians, nutritionists, and wellbeing visitors to support our clients.

HILS Lead Allied Health Professional and registered dietitian, Alethea Donnelly, leads the Nutrition and Wellbeing team, which provides support to all our meals on wheels clients to help them stay healthy and well-nourished.

‘It can be easy to lose a lot of weight without noticing, and difficult to find out information about what you can do to stop this happening’, says Alethea. ‘There is a lot of information on the television and in newspapers about losing weight, but not much to help people who need to put more weight on. My team is dedicated to providing all our clients with information about eating for health and offering specialist support for anyone needing extra help.’

Being undernourished can lead to some nasty health issues, such as increased risk of falling, a suppressed immune system, and slower healing and recovery from illness. However, many people believe that losing weight and having a smaller appetite is a normal part of ageing, so they do not notice the warning signs. Older people may have reduced taste and thirst sensation, leading them to eat and drink less than they need to sustain a healthy body. They may even actively avoid fats or sugars because they believe they are unhealthy, rather than part of a normal balanced diet. These factors can easily lead to unintentional weight loss and undesirable health conditions.

To help raise awareness about the risks facing older people, for UK Malnutrition Awareness Week 2019, HILS has sent out 2,000 malnutrition factsheets to our meals on wheels clients to help them identify if they are unintentionally losing weight and information about what they can do about it.

HILS is also working with other organisations and community groups including Hertswise, AgeUK, and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, to host over 30 information sessions with older people. These sessions are designed to be fun and interactive, while also sparking conversations about good nutrition and helping to identify people who could be at risk of malnutrition.

Participating clubs will have access to an information pack with activities and factsheets which they can use with their members. The University of Hertfordshire is also arranging for student volunteers from their nutrition and dietetics department to join some of these groups and help with the activity sessions.

If you would like to participate in this campaign, you can:

  • Download the HILS information pack here – we have a limited number of Nutrition Wheels available, but you can order these via the Malnutrition Task Force website.
  • Visit the BAPEN website for more information and resources for Malnutrition Awareness Week 2019.

UK Malnutrition Awareness Week is a national campaign founded in 2018 by BAPEN (the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition) and the Malnutrition Task Force.