Landmark Study Reveals That Malnutrition is a Serious Yet Avoidable Emergency in Canadian Hospitals

Study's Final Findings Unveiled at Canadian Malnutrition Week

TORONTO, Sept. 28, 2015 /CNW/ - A national study by the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force (CMTF) has revealed that an astonishing 45 per cent of patients admitted to medical and surgical units in Canadian hospitals are malnourished. The study also found that patients encounter avoidable issues that aggravate the problem of malnutrition during their admission. The alarming results were announced as part of the inaugural Canadian Malnutrition Week, taking place from September 28 to October 2.

Malnutrition is the condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function.

"An unacceptable number of Canadians are not receiving nutritional care while hospitalized, and this is affecting patient recovery and could cost Canada's health care system millions of dollars," says Heather Keller, PhD, FDC and Chair of the CMTF Advisory Board. "Malnutrition increases morbidity, readmission rates and mortality. On average, each malnourished patient stays two-to-three days longer in the hospital than well-nourished patients, and this translates into about $2,000 more for each malnourished patient's hospital stay."

In the landmark study — the first of its kind in Canada and the world's most comprehensive ever to focus on the issue — CMTF researchers gathered data from more than 1,000 patients in 18 academic and community hospitals spread over eight provinces. It assessed nutritional status, evaluated the practice of nutrition care, identified potential ways to improve the situation as well as outlined the health care impacts of malnutrition and insufficient nutritional care.

Other Key findings revealed about a third of hospitalized patients do not consume half of the food they are provided, which also increases their hospital stay as their recovery is delayed. Many patients feel unwell and cannot eat. But, patients also do not consume all of their food because: (1) they have difficulty opening packages/unwrapping food; (2) they are interrupted during their meal; (3) are experiencing difficulty reaching their meal trays; and (4) do not find the food appealing. Ways of supporting their nutrition needs have to be started earlier. For the patients who also enter the hospital in a malnourished state, it makes the situation a two-pronged problem.

Key recommendations brought forward by the CMTF include: endorsing and implementing nutrition screening for every medical and surgical patient at hospital admission to identify those at nutrition risk and to provide prompt and thorough nutrition care; raising awareness on the importance of food for patient recovery (missing a meal is like missing a medication or treatment); ensuring patients and their families are part of the solution and are involved in nutrition care; and providing access to training for health care professionals (HCPs) who indicate their nutrition knowledge is not adequate.

"Malnutrition is a public health care emergency that affects patient health and hospital costs. Governments, hospitals, professional associations, and health care providers must take action on the solutions and use available tools to rectify this problem," Professor Keller adds.

As part of this study, physicians and nurses completed a survey and indicated their need for more nutrition-related education. Moreover, nurses indicated their willingness to participate in nutrition risk screening of patients and to add two to three questions to their assessment to screen for malnutrition in admitted patients.

"Malnutrition is a potentially costly and critical issue for Canada's health care sector — and one that can easily be resolved by implementing improved patient nutrition care," says Dr. Johane Allard, FRCP, who authored the paper with Task Force colleagues. "An excellent first step is to add standardized nutrition risk screening to patient admission histories. Then, patients screened at nutrition risk receive a nutrition assessment and the implementation of a nutrition care plan, involving the expertise of dietitians. An interdisciplinary approach is vital to the nutrition care of hospitalized patients. All health care professionals involved with direct patient care have a role to play."

The CMTF has worked with leading experts to develop feasible solutions that promote early identification of nutrition challenges and propose easily adoptable action items to fix the problem. "Identifying malnutrition and poor food intake when it exists is a priority," says Keller. "Standardized screening and assessment are a first step, and health care professionals must be educated on the proposed strategies and procedures that can easily be put in place to address the effects that illness, ability to eat and other organizational barriers have on patients' consumption of food and beverages while in hospital."

"Dietitians, the nutrition professionals on health care teams, are frustrated that the current system fails to identify all potentially at-risk or malnourished patients," says Pat Vanderkooy, a member of the CMTF advisory board from Dietitians of Canada. "Dietitians of Canada supports the recommendations from CMTF to initiate screening to ensure all patients at risk for malnutrition are seen by a dietitian and that the interdisciplinary team puts an emphasis on food and adequate nourishment as a treatment."

For more information on the CMTF, its study and its recommendations, please visit

About the CMTF

The Canadian Malnutrition Task Force (CMTF) is a group of clinicians, decision makers and investigators forming a standing committee of the Canadian Nutrition Society (CNS). The CMTF aims to reduce the gaps between research and practice in the prevention, detection and treatment of malnutrition in Canadians through the continuum of care. Its mandate is to try and achieve optimal nutritional status for adult and paediatric patients in hospitals and older adults living in the community and in long term care (LTC) facilities, by developing and promoting valid nutrition care processes as part of standard clinical care.

SOURCE Canadian Malnutrition Task Force

Video with caption: "Video: To highlight the issue of malnutrition in Canadian hospitals, the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force has released a 15 second video to coincide with Canadian Malnutrition Week (September 28 to October 2).". Video available at:

Image with caption: "Eating Matters. Canadian Malnutrition Week (Sept. 28 to Oct. 2). (CNW Group/Canadian Malnutrition Task Force)". Image available at:

For further information: Media Contacts: Alistair Kyte, LexPR Canada, 416-542-9140 x3362,


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