Building Better Health Equity with Inpatient Malnutrition Programs

February 07, 2023

If you work in a hospital, you’re aware of the myriad of health challenges that face your patients. With so many severe injuries and illnesses to address, things like malnutrition and food insecurity tend to be left to the margins — but these are problems that can have a significant impact on a patient’s health. The systemic lack of recognition for malnutrition is not only affecting the health needs of individual patients, but it also contributes to the widening gap of health disparities in our communities.

When patients are discharged, it can be difficult to know how their circumstances effect the continuation of their recovery. One of the key benefits of a strong inpatient malnutrition program is that it provides a bridge between inpatient treatment and the patient’s wider community and support programs. By diagnosing malnutrition and recognizing food insecurity during a patient’s hospital stay, you can provide referrals to programs that can help address these issues in the long term. This can include programs like food banks, meal delivery services, and nutrition education programs.

Of course, medical professionals know that there are “social determinants of health” like food insecurity, and do their best to address them when possible. However, these issues can be difficult to diagnose, especially when clinician bandwidth is limited. Many patients may not be aware of their own nutritional status or may not be willing to disclose information about their eating habits. Rather than expecting patients to self-diagnose, hospitals can glean insight into an individual’s nutritional status by implementing a comprehensive screening process, which can include questions about food insecurity, dietary habits, and weight changes. This information can then be used to make informed decisions about the best course of action.

In addition to addressing malnutrition and food insecurity, a strong inpatient malnutrition program can also provide benefits to the hospital and healthcare system as a whole. Patients who are well-nourished are more likely to have better health outcomes, faster recoveries, and lower healthcare costs. A malnutrition diagnosis turns into community support for the patient, which in turn leads to better quality of diet, stronger ability to adhere to outpatient care plans, and fewer hospital readmissions. A study at New Hanover demonstrated a 24% lower readmissions rate after just one year of implementing a malnutrition transition-of-care program for at-risk individuals.

Health disparities are an irrefutable issue, and it is crucial for healthcare providers to take an active role in mitigating these disparities by looking for and addressing their root causes. Clinical Decision Support (CDS) platforms like Junum are the key to healthier communities and more efficient care centers. With Junum, patients can get the support they need to change their own health trajectory, rather than getting stuck in a loop of hospitalization and disconnected discharge. And it all happens without distracting clinicians and administrators from the amazing work they do to keep their facilities running smoothly. We can help build better health equity for your patients and ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to maintain good health — learn more at

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