Malnutrition and Minority Older Adults: A Health Equity Issue

From the article by Bob Blancato on HuffPost:

Any discussion of minority populations in America must include the rapid increase in the percentage of minorities in the older adult population. The 2016 Profile of Older Americanscontains some specific examples of the minority population growth. Racial and ethnic older adult minority populations have increased from 6.7 million people (18% of all older adults) in 2005 to 10.6 million in 2015 (22% of older adults) and will more than double to 21.1 million in 2030 (28% of older adults). African-Americans and Hispanics comprised the largest share of minority groups in 2015.

These older adults of color are more likely to have chronic health concerns—one significant risk factor for older adult malnutrition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “blacks are 40% more likely than non-Hispanic whites to have high blood pressure, and they are less likely to have this condition under control.” Also, the rate of diabetes diagnoses is 77% higher among blacks, 66% higher among Hispanics, and 18% higher among Asians than among whites.

Economic factors, including food insecurity, are also linked to malnutrition—and 18.4% of older blacks, 11.8% of older Asians, and 17.5% of older Hispanics were below the poverty level in 2015, compared to just 6.6% of white older adults, according to the Profile. Further, white older adults have food insecurity rates that are less than half the rates for black seniors, and similarly, Hispanic older adults have food insecurity rates which are more than double the rates of non-Hispanic older adults.

These startling numbers add up to a picture of health disparities in minority healthcare. Because of this, malnutrition care must be a part of health screenings for every older adult in every care setting, with an emphasis on reaching all populations. As the Congressional Black Caucus Institute in their 21st Century Council 2015 Annual Report noted, “The most benefit will occur when malnutrition care becomes a priority and routine standard of medical care.”

Malnutrition is a serious concern for older adults. The cost of disease-associated malnutrition in older adults in the U.S. is estimated to be $51.3 billion per year, and up to one out of two older adults are at risk of becoming malnourished, according to the newly-released National Blueprint: Achieving Quality Malnutrition Care for Older Adults.

Read the full article.