Male doctor, female patient.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Half the patients in the internal medicine departments at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center – most of them
elderly – were found to have been admitted while suffering from malnutrition or
close to it, according to a study conducted at the government- owned hospital
and published in the Israel Medical Association Journal.
There is no
evidence that the condition of elderly patients admitted to other hospitals
around the country is much different.
The patients at highest risk are
those aged 79 or above, who are 10 times likelier than well-fed patients from
the overall population to die during hospitalization, according to Wolfson
director-general Dr. Yitzhak Berlovich.
Berlovich promised that as a
result of the study a nutritional assessment would be carried out on all
relevant high-risk patients and they would be given suitable
Malnutrition, however, cannot be solved over the long term in
hospitals, as inadequate and improper diets lacking necessary nutrition occur at
home among people who cannot afford to buy nutritious food or prepare it, and in
institutions that do not serve it. People might also lose weight or receive poor
nutrition during a period of illness that preceded their hospitalization, or not
eat while in the hospital because they are not used to the food they
The Health Ministry – which owns Wolfson – had no comment on the
study, which was named “MENU: A Hospital-Based Prevalence Survey MEasuring
NUtrition Risk in Hospitalized Patients.”
“Identifying patients with
malnutrition is the first vital step in dealing with this serious phenomenon,”
said Dr. Mona Boaz, head of Wolfson’s epidemiology and research unit,
which took part in the study.
“The time needed to treat malnutrition is
long, and it can’t be solved during the relatively short time they are
hospitalized,” Boaz said. “But research has shown that food additives, even if
given in a hospital setting, can improve patients’ conditions and reduce the
time they need to be hospitalized, as well as complications from
Wolfson has gone a step farther by setting up a team of
‘volunteer feeders” who have been specially trained to get patients to eat their
supplements in the various hospital departments.
Dr. Eyal Leibovitz, a
senior Wolfson internal medicine specialist and specialist in treating obesity,
said long hospital stays can cause patients to lose weight because they are not
used to the food or do not feel well.
Dr. Dov Gavish, head of one of
Wolfson’s internal medicine departments, said that previous studies of
inadequate nutrition among patients had been conducted, but new research used
advanced diagnostics, including measurements and questionnaires that helped find
those suffering from functional malnutrition.
The European Society for
Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition has recommended several nutrition screening
tools to assess malnutrition risks in populations. They include the Malnutrition
Universal Screening Tool for use among adults in the community, and the
Mini-Nutritional Assessment for use with elderly who are residing at home or
Meanwhile, it was announced by the Welfare and Social
Services Ministry that Minister Moshe Kahlon had appointed a “Council for
Nutritional Security” to be headed by Ben-Gurion University health economist
Prof. Dov Chernichovsky.
Kahlon said the council would be a formal
national and interministerial body, making it capable of studying and addressing
issues related to nutritional security in the population. It will bring its
recommendations to the minister and the cabinet.
The council includes
experts from various fields, including welfare and education.
established by government-supported legislation and set up after Kahlon
announced when entering office that he favored a professional body that would
find solutions to nutrition and look into other options beyond voluntary
organizations and soup kitchens.