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Food is medicine - Malnutrition awareness


Food is medicine. Medicine Heals. These are key messages of the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force to raise awareness for the second annual Malnutrition Week, September 26-30. This is important to the region because a national study done in 2013 identified that six out of 10 patients are malnourished on admission in our region.

Malnutrition awareness
A food services worker, left, with the multidisciplinary team on unit 4A at Pasqua, also known as the Accountable Care Unit, where the More-2-Eat study is being held.

The RQHR was selected as one of five hospitals in Canada to participate in the More-2-Eat project. It’s an 18-month study to implement a nutrition care pathway, an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Heather Keller from the University of Waterloo, who received a grant from the Canadian Frailty Network. The RQHR research team, consisting of Dr. David McCutcheon, VP of Physician and Integrated Health Services; Lori Garchinski, executive director of Critical Care, Cardiosciences and Medicine Inpatient Units; Stephanie Cook, director of Nutrition and Food Services; and Roseann Nasser, research dietitian (principal investigator), received an $80,000.00 working grant to implement this pathway.

The More-2-Eat study is being conducted on the Accountable Care Unit (ACU) at the Pasqua Hospital. The focus of the study is to improve the prevention, detection and standard treatment of malnutrition for hospitalized patients. The lessons learned on 4A for implementing this nutrition care pathway will be transferred to other units in the health region. The first step of the pathway is to identify patients at nutrition risk on admission. Nursing staff have been asking two simple questions to determine the patient’s risk as part of the admission database. The dietitian is then contacted if the patient answers “yes” to the nutrition screening questions.

Another step in the pathway is to identify patients who eat 50 per cent or less of their meal tray. Previous Canadian research has shown that patients who eat 50 per cent or less of the provided food have a longer length of stay. Food service workers (FSW) play an important role in identifying how much a patient eats as the FSW often is the first one who sees what the patient has or has not eaten.

On August 29, the FSWs started recording the amount of food eaten at each meal for all 35 patients on the ACU by marking each patient’s whiteboard with a red marker. The whiteboard is used as a means to communicate daily goals and food intake to patients/families, physicians and nurses. This food intake information is then used by nursing staff and reported to patients, families, physicians and dietitians the next day at bedside rounds. The More-2-Eat project is raising the awareness of the importance of nutrition as medicine for each and every patient on 4A. Nutrition care involves everyone!
Click here for more information on Canadian Malnutrition Week