When people are getting over a sickness or injury, they may not think of eating the right kind of food during their recovery.
But good nutrition may be key to getting their health back.
When Monika McComb returned home from the hospital, she did not think about following a healthier diet to help her get better.
“You know, I could hardly even hardly walk with a cane.”
McComb did not consider that her weakness might be because of poor nutrition -- until health care workers tested her.
The test was part of a study carried out by Advocate Health Care and Abbott. Researchers hoped to learn about how nutrition helps to reduce visits to the hospital.
An invisible problem
Suela Sulo is a health researcher with Abbot, a company that makes medical devices and drugs. She says doctors rarely think of malnutrition when working with patients who are in recovery.
"Malnutrition is invisible to the eye, and therefore it remains under diagnosed and under-treated.”
McComb joined a home health care program, which provided her with a detailed nutrition plan.
The majority of Americans are able to get healthy food. But one in three patients in home health care is malnourished or has some nutritional shortage. This puts their health -- and recovery -- at risk.
Kate Riley is a chief nursing officer with Advocate Health Care.
"Nutrition is not the primary reason why patients usually come to home health; however, it is important for us to pay attention to the nutrition to promote their strength and get them recovered quicker.”
Abbot paid for the study and worked with Advocate Health Care to find a way to reduce hospitalizations, cut medical costs and promote patients' health.
Faster recovery with nutritional drinks
In the study, patients using home health care received education about nutrition, along with nutritional drinks. Sulo said that after such care, they were nearly 20 percent less likely to go to the hospital in the 90 days that followed an injury or illness.
“Through identifying the patients with malnutrition risk, feeding them with the right nutritional drinks, you are increasing their chances of recovering faster, not going back to the hospital, or not going to the hospital in the first place.”
One of the study's goals was to create a program that patients could follow on their own. This meant the patients needed to learn about nutrition. Gretchen VanDerBosch says anyone can become malnourished and not know it. She says educating patients about nutrition is very important.
“Their outcome is so much improved, they have more strength, they heal quicker, have less falls, they have less readmissions,”
The researchers say they hope other health care programs and hospitals can use the study to help their patients, as well.
As for Monika McComb, she says she feels stronger and has more energy than she had at the start of the program. She said her home health nurse and a focus on nutrition have improved her health.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Words in This Story
illness - n. a sickness or disease
cane - n. a short stick that often has a curved handle and is used to help someone to walk
malnutrition – n. the unhealthy condition that results from not eating enough food or not eating enough healthy food
diagnose - v. to recognize (a disease, illness, etc.) by examining someone
promote – v. to help (something) happen, develop, or increase
supplements – n. something that is added to something else in order to make it complete, such as dietary or vitamin supplements
outcome – n. something that happens as a result of an activity or process
focus - n. a subject that is being discussed or studied