Tracking and treating malnutrition: a retrospective observational study of the nutritional status of vulnerable people accessing a meals-on-wheels (MOW) service
Aim: The aims of the study were to describe the characteristics of meals-on-wheels (MOW) recipients, including prevalence of malnutrition amongst those who have received input from the Nutrition and Wellbeing Service (NWS) and to explore whether the NWS had an impact on the nutritional status (malnutrition risk) of recipients over time.Background:Support services, for example, MOW, play an important role in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition in the community. In the UK, MOW services are under threat. However, little is known about how they support the health and well-being of older people. This study reports on the characteristics of MOW recipients and investigates change in nutritional status over time. Methods: A retrospective study of MOW recipients of nutritional concern who were offered a check through the NWS was conducted. Demographic, social and health information were gathered at the initial visit. Nutritional status (risk of malnutrition) was obtained using the validated Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST), at the initial and subsequent visits. Changes over time were investigated for recipients receiving at least two follow-up visits.Findings:An initial visit was made to 399 MOW recipients, and 148 recipients had two or more follow-up visits. At initial screening, 177 (44%) of recipients were at medium or high risk of malnutrition. Frailty was significantly related to malnutrition risk (P = 0.049). At follow-up, there was a reduction in malnutrition risk. Conclusions: The MOW service was associated with a reduction in malnutrition risk. By offering well-being visits within a MOW service, malnutrition can be identified early. Future studies into how MOW services might delay or prevent the need for support from acute health services and social care are warranted.