Alcohol-related malnutrition

This local case study illustrates the value of evidence in helping reduce inequalities in health and improve health outcomes in our population.

The question: What is the best approach to prevent and treat alcohol-related malnutrition in people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless? What can help prevent or reverse micronutrient deficiencies in this group of people?

The evidence: A thorough search for published research involving homeless drinkers was carried out to find evidence on the type and level of nutrient deficiencies and to look at effective treatments to reduce or cure these deficiencies. The quality of the research was assessed as part of this process.

What was found: Although evidence was limited, nine studies were located which showed that there are deficiencies, including vitamin B1 and many other micronutrients. Evidence also showed 25 different types of treatment for reducing malnutrition in this population. These included educating homeless people on better eating and drinking less, providing food or vitamin supplements or help with detox, or a combination of these approaches.

The conclusion: The best way to improve nutrition in this population is through provision of food, supplements or cooking facilities, either alone or in combination with other treatments. Involving participants in setting up interventions can lead to good uptake.

The Evaluation and Evidence toolkits go hand in hand. Using and generating evidence to inform decision making is vital to improving services and people’s lives.

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