New Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Older Adults

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recently released by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) urge Americans to “make every bite count.” This latest edition focuses on a healthy diet at each life stage, including for older adults.

The DGAs encourage older adults to choose nutrient dense foods and eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy and eat less foods with added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. In addition, the DGAs comment older adults often do not eat enough protein which is important to prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs naturally with age and the DGAs identify adequate Vitamin B12 and hydration as concerns as well.

The DGAs recommend older adults “follow a healthy dietary pattern because of the changing dietary needs and the heightened risk of malnutrition that occurs with age.” Indeed, older adult malnutrition persists as a growing crisis in American today and it has been exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic that has intensified disparities and social isolation.

The Defeat Malnutrition Today coalition has outlined specific goals and strategies to help overcome malnutrition in its National Blueprint:  Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults, 2020 Update. One of these strategies addresses the important gap in nutrition and healthcare for older adults, noting that malnutrition care is not included in quality measures that help assess healthcare value and effectiveness. This gap was similarly underscored in a recent Senate resolution that encouraged the “adoption of malnutrition electronic clinical quality measures.”

A Global Malnutrition Composite Score has been developed, consisting of 4 quality measures centered on critical steps for malnutrition risk identification, diagnosis, and treatment in the hospital. The Measures Application Partnership (MAP) Hospital Workgroup is set to review this composite measure in early 2021, for its appropriate inclusion in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) Program. The National Quality Forum (NQF) is also reviewing the measure to endorse its use.

Now is the time to advocate for endorsement of the Global Malnutrition Composite Score to help ensure nutrition is part of high-quality, safe, and coordinated healthcare for older adults and to better identify those who need help, support, and encouragement to achieve a healthy diet.

Originally published by The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA): Source

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