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10th March 2016

Malnutrition Armband

Who knew paper could have so many uses?

I do love innovative solutions to difficult problems and this is just what has come from Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Age UK Salford, who are looking at helping to tackle the important battle against malnutrition by the use of an armband made from a simple strip of paper.

Salford and the Malnutrition Prevention Programme

Salford is one six sites that are part of the Malnutrition Prevention Programme, a Department of Health funded scheme to help the 1 million older people in England who are suffering from, or at risk of malnutrition, overseen by the Malnutrition Task Force. An estimated 14 per cent of those aged over 65 in Salford, roughly 5000 individuals, are malnourished and their life expectancy is 12% lower than the average person in England.

The Programme sees whole communities – including local NHS trusts, hospitals, GP practices, care homes and community groups – coming together to tackle malnutrition. The aim is to significantly reduce the number of people aged 65 and over who are malnourished in these areas.

A paper armband to identify risk of malnutrition is developed

As part of this programme, a need was identified for a non-intrusive, non-medical intervention for health care providers and the voluntary sector to be able to implement quickly and easily into their practice to alert them to those at risk of malnutrition. The PaperWeight Armband was born out of this, to signpost those who are underweight in order to consider the next steps and support discussions and planning with the individual as to how to improve dietary intake.

The armband is a strip of paper that is wrapped around the bare arm of an older person to measure their upper arm circumference and quickly identify a risk of malnutrition; an upper arm measurement of less than 23.5 cm indicates a body mass index (BMI) of less than 20, the cut-off point for classification of underweight. In other words, if an elderly person can easily slip the armband up and down their upper arm, it’s likely their BMI is less than 20, which is a sign of being malnourished.

To increase its usefulness the armband also includes:

  • Instructions on the inside of the nutrition armband outlining how to use it;
  • A QR code which will direct the user/carer/clinician to the Age UK Salford website, which provides resources including information, advice and support on simple dietary changes that could be made to increase calorie intake.

As well as helping people to make improvements in their weight without the need for formal medical intervention, it is hoped that this will help to increase the proportion of older people who feel supported to manage their own conditions and improve the quality of life for service users and carers.

The armband was recently promoted to other health and social care providers at the reception for the Malnutrition Task Force at the Houses of Parliament. Whoever thought a simple strip of paper would be the guest of honour at parliament – but a well-deserved one I think!

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Ayela Spiro

Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation

Ayela is a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, where her role involves providing expert advice on nutrition and health issues to a number of key audiences including consumers, health professionals, charities, the media and the food industry. At the heart of her work is the communication of nutrition science that promotes understanding of nutrition and health and contributes to the improved wellbeing of all. Read more

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