Tackling malnutrition in St Albans with free BMI check for awareness week
PUBLISHED: 12:52 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:52 04 October 2018
Free malnutrition screenings were offered to St Albans locals to try and tackle poor health in older people.
Anyone could come to Catherine Street’s Jubilee Centre yesterday to take a weight, height and age BMI check - the most efficient way to indicate malnutrition.
The county’s meals-on-wheels provider Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), Public Health Hertfordshire, and student volunteers from the University of Hertfordshire (UoH) teamed up to offer the service as part of the first national Malnutrition Awareness Week from October 1 to 7.
Organisations across the country are trying to bust myths about malnutrition during the week, including that losing weight is a normal consequence of aging.
Undernourishment can lead to a range of health issues including infection and muscle deterioration, resulting in falls or fractures, and is costing an estimated £19.6billion to health and social care each year.
Cllr Richard Roberts from Herts county council (HCC) said: “It is so important because what HILS do, with HCC, is support people to live the lives they want to live and have the right nutrition.
“Someone coming in once a day to offer a nutritious meal to our most vulnerable residents can make sure they don’t end up in hospital or a care home or at the doctors.”
According to research charity British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN), and the national Malnutrition Task Force, one in ten people over 65 are at risk - this is 1.3million people.
For a young person, a normal BMI is between 20 and 25, but for an older person, it is not alarming to register between 20 and 30.
Chief executive of HILS, Sarah Wren, said: “The reason it is so important is because obesity is always the headline but for older people, malnutrition is more of an issue. We have been screening people and the great thing is discovering someone who is not malnourished but there are also people here who need help - this is a really crucial screening so we can give them the support they need.
“We want to spread the word that if an older person who you know is finding that their clothes and jewellery are becoming loose and that they are losing weight, there is help available for them.”
She noted that although results were encouraging, the most at risk may not be able to visit the Jubilee Centre alone, and encouraged family members to make use of a free malnutrition check online.
After researching the shopping and food habits of 25 participants, the UoH also released an educational game about malnutrition in aid of the awareness week.
The Food in Later Life Game, co-produced with Focus Games, can be used to train staff in supermarkets about inclusively for older people.
This includes being friendly, reorganising aisles, and implementing a slow checkout.
Professor of food and public health and director of the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, Wendy Wills, said: “We just felt so strongly that this is an easy change for the supermarkets to make.
“We have all this evidence to show that small changes can really help older people to do their shopping, which is important, but in reality it’s difficult to get supermarkets involved.
“Older people are in the customer base, but they told us again and again that their needs are not met.”
She said it was difficult partly because each store needs to make the change individually.
The UoH are in the London Colney Sainsbury’s with the game until 3pm today.
A free malnutrition BMI check is available at www.hertsindependentliving.org/news-media/malnutrition-screening-locations-1-5-october-2018/