Health

Food poverty: Experts issue malnutrition health warning

  • 22 August 2014
  • From the section Health
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Fruit & veg on supermarket shelves

More people are suffering from malnutrition as a result of worsening food poverty, experts have warned.

The Faculty of Public Health said conditions like rickets were becoming more apparent because people could not afford quality food in their diet.

It comes after health figures recently revealed a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past year.

Ministers say that billions of pounds are available to tackle health issues.

The government said the money would help councils cope with public health problems such as malnutrition.

But data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed the number of those admitted to hospital in England and Wales had risen from 5,469 to 6,520 over the past year.

Vice president of the Faculty of Public Health, John Middleton, said food-related ill health was getting worse "through extreme poverty and the use of food banks".

"It's getting worse because people can't afford good quality food. It's getting worse where malnutrition, rickets and other manifestations of extreme poor diet are becoming apparent," he said.

Summer food schemes

The faculty recently claimed that UK food prices had risen by 12% since 2007. It also noted that in the same period, UK workers had suffered a 7.6% fall in wages.

Separately, numerous schemes have been running throughout the summer holidays to help families feed their children.

Children being served food

The Kellogg's Holiday Breakfast Club, the Fun and Food In School Holidays initiative and the Ashram Housing Association's Holiday Kitchen are among the schemes running across the UK.

Muna Choudhury from Ashram said: "We heard from the families we work with the summer holidays can prove to be a struggle.

"Families were finding it difficult to find affordable activities and to provide extra meals."

Manchester GP Aisha Awan said healthy food did not have to be expensive, suggesting tinned food - as long as it was not high in sugar or salt.

She added: "If you buy them [tins] they keep for longer - they're often a cheaper option for people who might be on a budget."

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Signs of being malnourished

The main symptom of malnutrition is rapid weight loss - usually 5-10% within a few months. Other signs include:

  • weak muscles
  • constantly feeling tired
  • an increase in illnesses or infections
  • children will not grow as quickly
  • and will show changes in behaviour becoming irritable, sluggish and anxious.

Source: NHS Choices

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Shoplifting 'rising'

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg told BBC Radio 4's Today programme some people were resorting to committing crime "simply to live".

"The evidence shows that shoplifting and theft in general is rising exponentially and there must be a reason for that," he said, adding that it was important to address the causes of such crimes.

Health Minister Dan Poulter insisted that the government wanted everyone to live a healthy life and that a good diet was essential.

He said the rise in malnutrition could be partly due to better diagnosis and detection by health professionals of people at risk.

"We want to reduce levels of malnutrition, particularly amongst frail and elderly people," Dr Poulter added.

"We are working with Age UK on a half a million pound project, which aims to tackle the issue in a range of health and care settings.

"We've also given local authorities a £5.4bn budget over two years to help them manage public health issues, including malnutrition, in their areas."

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