Identifying Those at Risk of Malnutrition

Identifying Those at Risk of Malnutrition

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Identifying Those at Risk of Malnutrition


Malnutrition is often associated with poor dietary habits caused by social mobility issues, mental health conditions or digestive disorders in public health. However, Platek and his co-researchers outline medical research has failed to consider another cause of malnutrition, namely cancer. Malnutrition is common among cancer patients, but the causal factor is often ignored in standard screening procedures (Platek et al. 2011). The researchers argue the gap in diagnostic practice raises questions concerning the validity of available malnutrition screening standards and indicators. While malnutrition is one of the most studied public health problems, further research is still required to update current methods and standards for malnutrition diagnosis.

Article Search

            The article search process began by identifying the subject matter. The identified topic helps determine a focused research question. The assignment states the research question is ‘what specific conditions elevate the risk of malnutrition?’ The research can then define the key concepts, words, and phrases to filter search results with the underlying inquiry. The next step was to identify suitable databases, such as PubMed, Nurse Reference Center and the Cochrane Library. Search optimization included setting a limit for publication date (less than five years), peer reviews and author professional fields. The last step is to check for errors and reiterate the entire search process in other nursing databases.

Article Findings

            The research article employs a metadata analysis of medical records from the National Cancer Institute. Descriptive statistics, including mean and standard deviations, were used to determine the prevalence of malnutrition in 227 cancer patients. Three research variables were used; (1) physician-diagnosed malnutrition associated with ICD-9 indicators, (2) body-mass index and (2) in-hospital nutrition assessments by registered dieticians (Platek et al. 2011). The three variables help the study show the differences in diagnostic outcomes between the national classification standards for malnutrition and when cancer-related data is included in the conventional malnutrition diagnosis.

Evidence for Practice

            Malnutrition is highly prevalent amongst mid and late-stage cancer patients. BMI scores show a prevalence of 18%, while dietitian assessments outline a prevalence rate of 26% (Platek et al. 2011). The findings indicate current diagnostic methods for malnutrition are not comprehensive enough to cover cancer patients. Therefore, there is a gap in standards of care and malnutrition screening practices for cancer patients. According to the researchers, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Organizations has to redesign another validated screening tool for malnutrition to not underestimate its severity among cancer patients (Platek et al. 2011). Nutrition professionals should collaborate with frontline nurses and clinicians to update current diagnostic tools to identify at-risk cancer patients.

Sharing of Evidence

            Nurses, clinicians, nutrition professionals and cancer patients are the main beneficiaries of the research. Nurses and clinicians interact directly with patients, hence can help identify missing nutrition indicators for cancer patients from the published information. On the other hand, nutrition professionals can use the information to track how malnutrition risk changes in different cancer stages for more accurate diagnosis and interventions. Cancer patients should read the article to become more aware of how the conditions increase their risk of malnutrition. Increased awareness will result in enhanced dietary vigilance and commitment. Healthcare agencies can also be included as target readers to incentivize them to fund further research into the screening gap.


            Clinical practice has comprehensive nutrition assessment tools developed and applied in the cancer setting. However, dieticians often use the tools and not clinicians and nurses. Dietitians are responsible for nutrition assessments in patients, meaning they are not well-positioned to prevent malnutrition in public health. Instead, nurses and clinicians suited for frequent screening lack universal screening tools for cancer patients. Unlike general health, the underlying causes of malnutrition for the at-risk group are multi-faceted and interdependent. A healthcare system perspective mandates the development of a universal screening tool for malnutrition to enable nurses to practice preventative medicine for malnutrition among cancer patients.


Platek, M. E., Popp, J. V., Possinger, C. S., Denysschen, C. A., Horvath, P., & Brown, J. K. (2011). Comparison of the prevalence of malnutrition diagnosis in head and neck, gastrointestinal, and lung cancer patients by three classification methods. Cancer Nursing, 34(5), 410–416.

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