Study recommends screening for malnourishment in high risk individuals with learning disability

There are a number of studies that have shown increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in people with learning disabilities. This qualitative study set out to consider the underweight status. The prevalence of underweight is also relatively high in people with learning disabilities, but as the authors state, it is not clear from the literature whether this is due to malnourishment or not.

The researchers therefore set out to find out how aware of the issue physicians, dieticians, and direct care staff were and what their experience s had been and what possible solutions they had used. They gathered data through the use of semi-structured interviews from six service providers in the Netherlands.

They found that the dieticians and physicians had noted malnutrition as prevalent in people they saw in their professional lives, but that they were not clear why this is was so. Direct care staff however were convinced that malnutrition was not present.

On the basis of their findings, the authors recommend that high risk individuals with learning disabilities should be screened for the presence of malnutrition as well as introducing education for direct care staff about healthy nutrition and weight. They suggest that the need for a specific screening instrument for malnutrition designed for people with learning disabilities.

Qualitative Study of Malnutrition in People With Intellectual Disabilities, Franssen J et al., in  Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 8: 239–246

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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