Malnutrition is widespread in both developed and emerging nations, with up to 78 percent of hospital inpatients in Vietnam suffering from poor nutrition or malnutrition, the former head of Cho Ray hospital's nutrition department has said.

Speaking at a recent meeting with local and foreign experts held in HCM City , Dr. Nguyen Huu Toan said that malnutrition could affect anyone at anytime.

"When talking about malnutrition, people think it just happens to children. For some, it comes from not eating enough or not eating the right nutrients," he said, adding that it could also be caused by digestive problems.

Undernourished patients take longer to recover from illness, injury and surgery, increasing costs of care and leading to higher mortality rates, he added.

Organised by Abbot and health experts, the meeting was held to brief local media on malnutrition issues in the country.

It aimed to provide right understanding on the issue and decrease the prevalence of malnutrition through calling-to-action for clinicians around the world, including Vietnam , to screen, intervene and supervene with in-hospital nutrition tracking and post-discharge nutrition planning.

A recent study of nutritional practices found that 60 percent of hospitalised patients were not screened for malnutrition or risk. "Some patients who enter the hospital are malnourished. Some will get malnourished during their stay. It affects their recovery because they don't have enough energy, protein or micro-nutrients to fight against illness and injury," Toan said.

"Most healthcare providers concentrate on treatment and tend to ignore a nutrition regimen to improve health," he added.

Dr Li Fei of Abbott Nutrition Research and Development said malnutrition could happen to anyone, especially those who have an underlying health issue and inadequate dietary intake. The risk is higher if they are over the age of 50, or are overweight or obese.

Nutrition management, particularly oral nutrition supplements, has been shown to be a cost-effective way to improve status and clinical outcomes.

Potential nutrition intervention strategies include dietary counseling, modification of diet and food fortification, enteral tube feeding and parenteral nutrition.

Dr. Ravinder Reddy, a surgeon at India 's Care Hospital , said up to 50 percent of hospitalised patients worldwide were malnourished.

Giving oral nutrition supplements upon hospital admission helps lessen the adverse effects of malnutrition and enhances patient response to treatment and recovery.

At the meeting, he introduced the FeedM.E. Global Study Group, which works with healthcare systems and communities to help bring about global change on a local level.-VNA