SoutheastHEALTH raising awareness for malnutrition in Missouri

SoutheastHEALTH raising awareness for malnutrition
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 5:17 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - SoutheastHEALTH in Cape Girardeau is raising awareness for malnutrition in Missouri.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson recently proclaimed the week of September 19-23 as Malnutrition Awareness Week with the help of SoutheastHEALTH Lead Clinical Dietitian Laurie Carlton, MS, RD, LD.

“This was something that I felt was necessary to influence policy discussions to help bring awareness to the public and to help encourage that conversation for individuals to have with their healthcare providers,” Carlton said. “To help discuss their nutritional status and hopefully identify malnutrition earlier so we can implement interventions at an earlier time.”

Carlton said it’s important to education and inform the public on malnutrition to help their lifestyle.

“Malnutrition is estimated to occur in over 50 percent of hospitalized patients with those who are over the age of 65 to be the highest risk,” Carlton said. “Malnutrition is associated with poor outcomes, longer hospitalized stays and can lead to a decrease in quality of life and even physical debilities.”

Southeast Hospital has seen nearly 500 patients that were diagnosed with malnutrition since January of 2021.

“We see malnutrition is this hospitalized setting. We also see it in our community as well, especially as the food insecurity has increased since 2020′s pandemic,” Carlton said.

She said it’s important for people to see a healthcare provider to get screened and diagnosed early when signs for malnutrition start to become present.

“Some of the easiest ways to identify malnutrition is through a decline in appetite, oral intake or with weight loss,” Carlton said. “If you’re experiencing any of those or if you’ve witnessed a loved one experiencing those symptoms, it’s important to discuss it with a healthcare professional.”

Carlton said when a patient is in the hospital there, they screen everyone within 24 hours of admission for malnutrition. Based on the screening tool, patients would then be referred to a registered dietitian where a more thorough assessment of individual will be conducted.

Carlton has worked with SoutheastHEALTH for 11 years now and said malnutrition is an ongoing issue.

“I’ve seen the detrimental effects that malnutrition can have on individuals on hospitalized patients here at SoutheastHEALTH,” Carlton said. “I think it’s important to bring awareness to that issue as well. It is largely diagnosed at the present time so I think we need to take steps to bring awareness to the issue.”

SoutheastHEALTH also helps patients with food insecurity issues as well. More than 100 patients are given food from the hospital’s Heroes of Hope food pantry since opening in February.

“Those that have identified to be malnourished or even express any kind of food insecurity within our hospital, we do set the up with a program, the Heroes for Hope program, to establish a relationship with the food pantry and hopefully help ensure that they have good nutritious food at home,” Carlton said.

For more information about SoutheastHEALTH, you can go to their website here.