The increased life expectancy in developed countries is reflected in the growth of the population over 64 years old. This change in demographic profile of the population challenges the responsiveness of health and social support systems, including healthcare systems. Malnutrition is one of the main determinants of disease and decreased quality of life among the elderly. Preventive interventions in this area (including prevention of undernutrition and obesity) have the potential to protect health, to reduce health systems’ costs and to promote improvement in the elderly’s quality of life. By raising awareness and training of health professionals it is possible, with effective screening tools, to diagnose malnutrition and to identify situations of nutritional risk before they evolve into chronic diseases and require complex and costly treatment. The development of nutrition policies targeted at decreasing malnutrition in in the elderly requires evidence regarding the epidemiological dimension of the problem. It also requires the capacity to evaluate the result of preventive and remedial interventions. In Portugal there is no recent data about individual food consumption and habits of the population (including the elderly). There is also no recent epidemiological description of the nutritional status of the population. Despite this, it is estimated that the prevalence of malnutrition (particularly undernutrition and obesity) is high among the elderly, with some studies pointing to more than 85% of prevalence for risk for malnutrition in the elderly’s residential homes.
This project aims to characterise the nutritional status of the Portuguese population with more than 64 years of age and to develop electronic surveillance system to identify malnutrition. The resulting knowledge provided by the study is meant to support the development of health protection policies and equity in health care. General objectives of the project are: (a) to characterize the nutritional status of the elderly (> 64 years old) resident in Portugal (autonomous regions included), by sex, five-year age groups and NUTS II regions, in the community and in the elderly’s residential homes, (b) to identify and characterize determinants of malnutrition among the elderly (> 64 years old) resident in Portugal (autonomous regions included), by sex, five-year age groups and NUTS II regions, in the community and in the elderly’s residential homes, and ( c) to develop an electronic surveillance system for surveillance and alert (screening, diagnosis, intervention) of the nutritional status of the elderly, in the primary health care facilities and in the elderly’s residential homes.