Scotland’s eating well challenge

Written by: Laura Cairns, Project Manager, Eat Well Age Well

Published: 23/05/2019

Laura gives an outline of the Eat Well Age Well project and discusses the challenge that malnutrition poses to public health in Scotland.

As rates of obesity continue to rise across Scotland, it is difficult to comprehend that malnutrition affects 1 in 10 older people in Scotland and in a wealthy nation with a rich food and drink culture, this is unacceptable. The Eat Well Age Well project (this link will take you away from our website) from Food Train (this link will take you away from our website) is focused on the prevention, detection and treatment of malnutrition and dehydration among older people living at home in Scotland. Eat Well Age Well is working in collaboration across all sectors to develop initiatives that make a difference to older people.

There are serious consequences for older people who don’t eat and drink enough. As well as the human pain and suffering of hunger, those that are malnourished are twice as likely to visit their GP, are more likely to require hospital admissions with longer lengths of stay, have a greater number of health issues and higher consequent social care needs.

Too few people are aware that malnutrition is an issue affecting the health of older people, including older people themselves and their families.

Malnutrition is strongly linked to loneliness – which now for the first time has its own strategy, highlighting the commitment made by Government to this important issue.

We believe that more needs to be done to put the spotlight on this public health problem. By reducing malnutrition we can save the health and care system money and more importantly can have a big impact on improving older people’s health and quality of life.

This is why Eat Well Age Well was established in 2017 and has a key focus on prevention and on interventions with older people in their own homes as this is where most of the malnutrition occurs. We are taking forward work across five key strands:

  1. Testing change ideas
  2. Research & evaluation
  3. Policy into practice
  4. Capacity building
  5. Collaborative relationships

Examples of our work, include work with:

  • The health sector, with Dieticians on how we can support them in providing nutritional care in the community;
  • Other third sector organisations working with older people, building capacity in organisations and individuals to look out for the signs of malnutrition and identify those that are malnourished;
  • Academics to conduct important research that will shine a light on the problem of malnutrition in the community;
  • Carers, volunteers and other community organisations supporting them with our small grant funding (this link will take you away from our website). We have funded over 70,000 in 2019 to support innovations in the community;
  • Key stakeholders through advocacy & influencing, by continuing to argue for progress and campaigning for more work on prevention (e.g. inputting into the recent Good Food Nation consultation);
  • Older people themselves, to engage and to listen to their views and experiences to help inform our work.

It’s vital that we take forward this work in partnership, and put older people at the centre. That’s why we are working closely with partners across all sectors, so we can really harness the expertise and experience of all agencies, including older people.

Earlier this month saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s new Framework for Older People (this link will take you away from our website) highlighting the serious issue of malnutrition and committing to action to ensure malnutrition is identified and managed quickly and effectively. This is great news. It’s up to us now to turn the ambitions into reality.

What is clear is that the prevention and treatment of malnutrition requires a whole system approach, including the third sector, NHS, community organisations and public services. That’s why our work sits firmly within those sectors and is supportive of several Scottish Government policy and planning priorities including the Public Health Priorities, in particular, Priority 6: “A Scotland where we eat well, have a healthy weight and are physically active.”

Just like Food Train has done for over 24 years, we will continue to make a distinct and valuable contribution to realising this priority and working on the commitments made to tackle malnutrition, by delivering activities rooted in the community, and bringing the voice of lived experience of older people into decision making.

I hope this blog puts the spotlight on the issue of malnutrition and raises awareness about this important issue.

If you would like to support us in our work, then sign up to our newsletter (this link will take you away from our website) to receive updates on progress and ways you can get involved, or find out more on our website (this link will take you away from our website).

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