Tribune. Good news: we are finally talking about undernutrition, on the occasion of the first National Week of Undernutrition that the collective against this disease is organizing with the support of the Ministry of Health and Solidarity. What is undernutrition? Is this possible in a society of plenty? It is a disease that affects two million people and is not linked to poverty, although it obviously exacerbates it.
One in three hospital patients; 40% of cancer patients; one in ten hospitalized children; 5 to 10% of elderly people at home and 30 to 40% of residents of accommodation establishments for dependent elderly people (Ehpad), these are the figures for undernutrition, this rapid and involuntary weight loss (more than 5 % of its weight in 1 month or 10% in 6 months).
The Covid increases this public health issue. First directly for the most affected Covid patients: during the first wave, a survey of 403 hospitalized patients indicates that the average weight loss was 6.5 kg and that, one month after discharge from the hospital, 4 out of 10 patients had not regained their initial weight. And the Covid also has indirect effects due to confinement, especially for the elderly: less walking means less appetite; and isolation prevents family meals and socializing.
Being undernourished is not inevitable
We are all concerned. This muscle wasting increases the risk of falls and infection and kills silently. This is why we must put an end to unbelief or resignation: losing appetite is sometimes inevitable for a patient, but being undernourished is not inevitable.
Beyond the necessary awareness, it is indeed new means and actions that we now need in the face of this disease, which, however, we know how to prevent, detect and treat when it is proven, by enriching food, then oral nutritional supplements and, if necessary, artificial nutrition.
The five steps to follow
We offer simple prevention and screening measures that are popular with the French, as our IFOP-Fondation Jean-Jaurès survey indicates. This is how we can build a policy to fight against undernutrition true to Hippocrates’ advice: “May your food be your first medicine. ” Five measures are to be followed:
– Perform a free oral screening at retirement age to detect teething problems upstream, because missing teeth are difficult chewing and a risk of undernutrition.
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