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An evaluation of a community dietetics intervention on the management of malnutrition for healthcare professionals

Kennelly, S., Kennedy, N.P., Rughoobur, G.F., Slattery, C.G., Sugrue, S.
Journal of human nutrition and dietetics 2010 v.23 no.6 pp. 567-574
human diseases, malnutrition, at-risk population, nutritional intervention, dietetics, education programs, health care workers, clinical nutrition, patients, community programs, professional education, nutrition knowledge
Background: Healthcare professionals working in the community setting have limited knowledge of the evidence‐based management of malnutrition. The present study aimed to evaluate a community dietetics intervention, which included an education programme for healthcare professionals in conjunction with the introduction of a community dietetics service for patients ‘at risk' of malnutrition. Changes in nutritional knowledge and the reported management of malnourished patients were investigated and the acceptability of the intervention was explored. Methods: An education programme, incorporating ‘Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST)' training, was implemented in eight of 10 eligible primary care practices (14 general practitioners and nine practice nurses attended), in seven private nursing homes (20 staff nurses attended) and two health centres (53 community nurses attended) in conjunction with a community dietetics service for patients at risk of malnutrition. Nutritional knowledge was assessed before, immediately after, and 6 months after the intervention using self‐administered, multiple‐choice questionnaires. Reported changes in practice and the acceptability of the education programme were considered using self‐administered questionnaires 6 months after the intervention. Results: A significant increase in nutritional knowledge 6 months after the intervention was observed (P < 0.001). The management of malnutrition was reported to be improved, with 69% (38/55) of healthcare professionals reporting to weigh patients ‘more frequently', whereas 80% (43/54) reported giving dietary advice to prevent or treat malnutrition. Eighty‐percent (44/55) of healthcare professionals stated that ‘MUST' was an acceptable nutrition screening tool. Conclusion: An education programme supported by a community dietetics service for patients ‘at risk' of malnutrition increased the nutritional knowledge and improved the reported management of malnourished patients in the community by healthcare professionals.