North Carolina hospital launches program to help malnourished patients after discharge

Wilmington, N.C.-based New Hanover Regional Medical Center has implemented a program to help malnourished patients after they leave the hospital.

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

"We identified a gap in nutrition care once our patients were discharged," said Angela Lago, the hospital's manager of clinical nutrition. "After our malnourished patients left the hospital, we didn't know if they had access to nutritious food, if family was able to help them obtain or prepare meals, if they were able to retain and implement the nutrition education they received, or if they were following the nutrition care plan that was created specifically to help them heal."

The hospital's malnutrition initiative includes a discharge nutrition 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 to no preparation, so patients with limited mobility and energy can easily prepare a meal or snack.

"Nutrition is imperative for continued improvement in overall health and wellness," Ms. Lago said. "We cannot expect our patients to bounce back from a trauma, stroke, fall, surgery or any other medical condition if their nutrition is inadequate. Nutrition is connected to everything."

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