Even though we are known as the land of plenty in this country, millions of Americans are malnourished. This condition can happen when a person has an imbalance of nutrients or doesn’t have the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals to help the body function properly.
Populations that are more at risk for malnutrition include individuals who are managing chronic health conditions, those living in lower income households, people facing food insecurity and senior citizens. This condition is also commonly seen in patients before and after they are discharged from the hospital. Malnutrition affects up to 50% of hospital inpatients, with a decline in health often seen following admission.
Complications from malnutrition
Malnutrition can lead to weakened immune systems, slower heart rates, fainting, weakness, digestive issues and anemia. Over time, a malnourished person can develop serious conditions – or a combination of issues — that require hospitalization. To complicate matters, malnourishment, often one of the underlying causes of hospitalization, can slow recovery and put the patient at risk for readmittance. For adult patients who are malnourished, they have a 54% higher chance of being readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.
One study published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition in 2021 evaluated 416 patients admitted to nine hospitals in Houston. Of those, 31% were malnourished on admission. This group tended to be older and had lower body masses than patients who weren’t malnourished. Compared to patients who weren’t malnourished, the patients with malnutrition had higher odds of having a hospital length of stay longer than three days, and they were also more likely to be readmitted within 30 days. With the average cost of a three-day hospital stay at around $30,000, it’s clear that whatever can be done to support malnourished patients can help reduce hospitalization costs in the long run.
Many pregnant women and new mothers can face malnutrition due to the lack of access to nutritious, quality food; putting them at higher risk of multiple health issues. Malnutrition during pregnancy has also been linked to health conditions in children, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
A malnutrition solution
Improving access to nutritious food is fundamental to reducing malnutrition in this country. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly 34 million Americans live in food-insecure households. If people are unable to get nutritious food because of cost, transportation issues, mobility problems or lack of availability, it’s almost impossible for them to maintain a healthy diet.
To eliminate food and health inequities and help more individuals struggling with malnutrition, reducing barriers to food access is an important place to start. Many government entities, health plans, non-profit groups, local food pantries and public and private organizations are all recognizing that food is medicine and when people have access to quality, nutritious meals, they have lower health care costs, better health outcomes and experience a better quality of life. Home delivery of pantry boxes and medically tailored food for people living with chronic illnesses is also an important piece of the solution.
Home-delivered, medically tailored meals help resolve many issues at once and can be particularly valuable for America’s aging population. Many seniors may face multiple roadblocks to eating a nutritious diet, including chronic medical conditions, income concerns, mobility issues that make it difficult to shop for and prepare meals and lack of transportation.
Home-delivered, medically tailored meal programs that center around nutrition and addressing food insecurity can help:
- Reduce malnutrition and undernutrition
- Inform people how to eat for chronic conditions
- Improve nutrient intake
- Reduce hospitalization and inpatient stays — People with chronic conditions who receive home-delivered meals experience fewer hospitalizations, and when hospitalized, their length of stay is significantly shorter
- Reduce readmissions and emergency department visits
Mom's Meals® can help
Nourishing the body with the right foods can make a difference in one’s health and overall well-being. With delivery available to any address nationwide, Mom’s Meals offers a variety of delicious and nutritious ready-to-heat-and-eat meals designed to provide condition-appropriate support.
We work with health plans, managed care organizations, governments and agencies to provide access to meals for people covered under Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the opportunity for individuals to order meals on their own. We can help you put better health within reach. Get started today.