North Carolina hospital launches program to help malnourished patients after discharge

New Hanover Regional Medical Center, based in Wilmington, North Carolina, has set up a program to help malnourished patients after discharge from hospital.

The initiative aims to provide nutrition to malnourished patients who have limited access to food. When a hospital dietitian diagnoses a malnourished patient, nutritional interventions are initiated to meet the patient’s medical nutritional needs. Patients are discharged with instructions on how to eat properly to maintain or rebuild strength and lean muscle mass.

“We identified a gap in nutritional care once our patients were discharged,” said Angela Lago, clinical nutrition manager at the hospital. “After our malnourished patients left the hospital, we didn’t know if they had access to nutritious food, if family could help them get or prepare meals, if they were able to retain and to implement the nutrition education they had received, or whether they were following the nutrition care plan that was created specifically to help them recover.”

The hospital’s Malnutrition Initiative includes an exit nutritional food box to help food-insecure patients continue their recovery. The facility’s nutrition services team selects items for the food boxes, which include peanut butter, lean protein, granola bars, whole wheat bread and fruit. The boxes are also designed to require little or no preparation, so patients with limited mobility and energy can easily prepare a meal or snack.

“Nutrition is imperative for the continued improvement of overall health and well-being,” Ms. Lago said. “We cannot expect our patients to recover from trauma, stroke, falls, surgery or any other medical condition if their nutrition is inadequate. Nutrition is linked to everything.”

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