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May 07 2013
A Stronger Focus on Patient Nutrition is Needed in Today’s Healthcare Landscape
By: Kelly Tappenden, PhD, RD, FASPEN

The healthcare landscape in the United States is rapidly changing. From the aging population to widespread healthcare policy changes, hospitals are under pressure to increase the quality of patient care while also cutting costs. The data reveal that healthcare costs are exorbitant:

  • Among all countries, the United States ranks number one in healthcare costs
  • Americans spent $2.6 trillion on healthcare in 2010
  • 31.4 percent of health care spending goes to hospital care

Elevating the role of patient nutrition in hospitals can help lower costs while simultaneously improving patient care and outcomes. That is why the importance of nutritional intervention cannot be understated. 1 in 3 patients enters the hospital malnourished and their nutritional status is shown to decline throughout their stay1-4. As a dietitian, the impact of patient malnutrition is clear to me, but all clinicians are responsible for patient care. That is why the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has joined together with other clinician organizations to form the Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition.

We are working with nurses, doctors, hospital administrators and other colleagues to bring nutrition to the forefront of care. As a dietitian, scientist and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, I have seen what clinical collaboration can accomplish. Through collaboration we can implement the best nutrition practices in hospitals throughout the country. This vital step will not only improve patient outcomes, but will have significant cost benefits for hospitals as they adjust to the changing healthcare landscape.

The negative outcomes of malnutrition are often preventable with timely nutrition intervention. Through clinical collaboration, we can provide patients with the comprehensive and effective treatment they deserve. I encourage all clinicians to take advantage of the resources on this site ( to better understand what each one of us can do to improve patient nutrition practices.

The consequences of unrecognized malnutrition are too huge to be ignored. Our role as dietitians in combatting malnutrition is an essential part of the solution!

1Coats KG et al.. J Am Diet Assoc 1993; 93: 27-33;
2Giner M et al. Nutrition 1996; 12: 23-29.
3Thomas DR et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2002; 75: 308-313.
4Braunschweig C et al. J Am Diet Assoc 2000; 100: 1316-1322