Opportunity for Quality Malnutrition Care to Improve Rural Health Outcomes, Health Equity for Older Americans

A partial image of the infographic, “Opportunity for Quality Malnutrition Care to Improve Rural Health Outcomes, Health Equity for Older Americans”
Publish Date: 20 March 2023


Older adults have a heightened risk of malnutrition that occurs with age. Many factors can increase their risk for malnutrition, including factors associated with disease, function, social and mental health, and hunger and food insecurity. Risk for malnutrition is also linked to disparities and may disproportionately impact people living in rural areas. 

This Perspective paper outlines the issue of malnutrition and its impact on health outcomes and health disparities as well as summarizes existing evidence on malnutrition in rural healthcare institutions. Further it describes opportunities for malnutrition quality improvement and a new malnutrition quality measure, the Global Malnutrition Composite Score measure, that has recently been recommended by the National Quality Forum as a health equity measure for rural healthcare. The Perspective also suggests how this measure may help meet new health equity requirements of the Joint Commission and may help address needs identified in non-profit hospital community health needs assessments. The Perspective identifies resources for malnutrition quality improvement and the Composite measure, and shares key learnings from McPherson Hospital, a rural institution that has worked to improve malnutrition quality care. Finally, the Perspective suggests opportunities for rural healthcare institutions to better connect with community-based nutrition programs/services and recommends where more program development and policy support is still needed.

Fleming S, Arensberg MB, Kerr K, Blancato R. The Opportunity for Quality Malnutrition Care to Improve Rural Health Outcomes and Health Equity for Older Americans. OBM Geriatrics 2023; 7(1): 227; doi:10.21926/obm.geriatr.2301227.

Author Bios

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Suzanne Fleming

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Director Health Policy,
Abbott Nutrition Health Institute, Abbott
Columbus, Ohio

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Senior Manager, HEOR 
Abbott Nutrition 
Columbus, OH, USA 
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Robert Blancato, MPA

Robert Blancato, MPA, is the national coordinator of Defeat Malnutrition Today, a coalition of more than 120 stakeholders and organizations committed to defeating older adult malnutrition across the continuum of care through federal, state and local policy changes throughout the nation’s healthcare system.

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