In Belgium, 14% of residents aged 70 years and older in care- and nursing homes are in a state of undernutrition, while a further 49% are at risk. In Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, a new nutrition label has been launched to help tackle this problem.
By Marc Delwaide
Undernutrition, a complex and multifactorial phenomenon, must be addressed early as its consequences on the physical and mental health of the elderly are considerable. A good nutritional state is linked to the maintenance of good health, quicker recovery times, a reinforced immune system, and a general state of wellbeing.
To tackle high levels of undernutrition in the region, Wallonia has developed a nutrition, health, and wellbeing plan for the elderly (Plan Wallon Nutrition Santé et bien-être des Aînés (PWNS-be-A). As part of this plan, the region is proposing that care- and nursing homes adhere to a ‘food and nutrition quality charter’. After adhering to the charter, homes can follow a procedure to achieve a regionally-recognised food and nutrition quality label. Though this label is not obligatory, it will be a pledge of good practices for food and nutrition. It is delivered by the Agency for a Life of Quality (l’Agence pour une Vie de Qualité (AViQ).
What is the Walloon nutrition, health, and wellbeing plan for the elderly?
Several steps are needed to obtain certification. The first stage is adherence to the food and nutrition quality charter, which includes a host of tips to make sure meals and nutritional care is coupled with quality and wellbeing. Many of the recommendations are easy to follow and implement:
- Make eating more pleasurable and create a convivial atmosphere by considering the layout of the dining room, the general ambience, and the presentation of the
- Ensure the presence of an adequate number of staff during mealtimes.
- Set precise hours for mealtimes and avoid an overnight gap between meals of more than 12 hours.
- Pay attention to residents’ oral health and abilities to chew and swallow, and provide adapted meals as appropriate.
Once a home has signed up to the charter, they can then begin the process of certification. This includes self-evaluation, the submission of an application, and an audit. Under certain conditions, homes can get support from a dietician mandated by the certification committee. If all the conditions are met, a label demonstrating good adherence to the charter is awarded for a period of three years. A list of certified nursing homes can be found on AVIQ website.
Through adherence to the charter, institutions can contribute to improved levels of wellbeing for the elderly citizens.
 A. Van Gossum, J. Van Wijngaarden, T. Rudka, Y.C. Luiking, M. Vandewoude. Malnutrition in Older Adults is Underestimated by Health Care Professionals Clinical Nutrition 2017 september ; vol. 36, suppl. 1 : S66-S67 ; SUN-P038 (Etude NUTRIACTION II 2013).