Bournemouth University research to identify and reduce malnutrition in older people has been featured as part of a national campaign.
Professor Jane Murphy, Professor of Nutrition at BU, has worked in partnership with health and care providers to develop and test new ways to identify people at risk of malnutrition and take effective action.
She has been named as one of the nation’s Lifesavers, the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.
They have been named as part of Universities UK’s MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on everyday lives.
Professor Murphy said: “We need to have some smarter solutions to understand and tackle the problem of malnutrition appropriately to reduce the cost burden on our health and social care services and ensure that older people are living the best quality of life that they can for as long as possible.
“Our research has looked at the factors that help or hinder the implementation of new procedures for detecting malnutrition across the community by health and social care staff.
“Through this work, we’ve developed new training materials and resources that are straightforward, simple and easy to use.”
Around 1.3 million older people in the UK are living with malnutrition or are at risk of being malnourished.
93 per cent of malnutrition occurs in the community, and there could be a range of causes including long-term health conditions or social factors, such as grief or social isolation, which lead to loss of appetite.
Professor Murphy’s work has created new resources to improve awareness and training around malnutrition in the community, including workbooks, online toolkits and a nutrition wheel to guide people through having conversations around eating well.
The programme has so far trained over 1,074 people across a range of roles, including professionals, volunteers and carers.
Among those using Professor Murphy’s resources is Sally Nevitt, Older People’s Worker at Immanuel Church in Southbourne.
She said: “We’ve got a lot of older people who live on their own and don’t get to eat meals with company.
“We’ve been doing some work with the nutrition wheel – we helped to pilot that and it’s really good because the questions are very targeted and there are solutions for the questions so it’s very easy to work through and explain it to the people who we are working with.
“I think it’s important to know the scientific information behind what we are telling people because then we’ve got far more authority to share that information.”
Professor Murphy has also worked with regional organisations including the Wessex Academic Health and Science Network and Southern Health to develop training resources to help health and care professionals diagnose and treat malnutrition in the community.
Julia Lake, Deputy Director of Nursing for Southern Health, said: “Working with Bournemouth University has been absolutely fantastic. Having that blend of academic, evidence-based practice and the clinical expertise, they’ve really supported us to put in place something that’s practical, that can be used in practice and that can really make a difference to our patients.”
The MadeAtUni campaign aims to give the public an insight into some of the work and research taking place at universities across the UK and celebrates those who make it happen.
Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Every day up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform and save lives. Research taking place in universities is finding solutions to so many of the health and wellbeing issues we care about and the causes that matter.
“This campaign is a chance to bring to life the wonderful and often unexpected work going on every day in our universities and to celebrate some of the people working to make a life-changing difference to the nation.”
Find out more about Professor Murphy's work and research into nutrition by listening to the podcast of her inaugural lecture: