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New tool measures malnutrition in older people in emergencies

21 Feb 2014

Older people are very vulnerable to malnutrition, but the tools to assess this are not yet available. (c) Benjamin Schilling/HelpAge InternationalOver the next 18 months, HelpAge International, in collaboration with Valid International and Brixton Health, is developing and piloting an innovative method of assessing the nutritional needs of older people in emergencies.

We're working with Mark Myatt, an epidemiologist from Brixton Health, and others from Valid International on the Rapid Assessment Method for Older People (RAM-OP).

RAM-OP could offer a quicker, less expensive alternative to the SMART (Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions) methodology, which is in wide use in the humanitarian sector.

Adapting methodology from child surveys

RAM-OP is currently still in the early stages of development and is being trialled in Ethiopia. Depending on the results from the piloting stages, it will be reviewed and amended.

The project started to take shape a few years when I got in touch with Mark to analyse humanitarian nutritional surveys on older people. Most concentrate on young children, so the methods we used were adapted from child survival surveys, trying new methods and indicators.

We thought that if we developed our own method we could bring sample sizes down and make it quicker and cheaper. One of the first steps is to use both the SMART and RAM-OP methods together and compare the results.

A tool for measurement and advocacy

One of the reasons that developing this method is so important is that advocating for other agencies to include older people in their work is very difficult. The reality is that older people are excluded despite their vulnerability to malnourishment; they are simply not considered a priority. Many agencies claim they can't include older people as the methodology is too complicated. We want to show that this method exists.

In January 2014, I travelled to Birmingham for an initial planning meeting with Mark and the other members of the project team.

The video below shows the process of how we developed this new assessment method, why we feel it is needed, what we hope to achieve and what it will mean for older people in humanitarian emergencies.

The Rapid Assessment Method for Older People (RAM-OP) project is funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund.

Read more about HelpAge's work to ensure older people are included in humanitarian responses.

Your comments

Krishna M. Gautam

Hi, Ageing Nepal is a partner NGO of HelpAge International Nepal. We too are thinking of doing a malnutrition status survey of small sample size of about 50 to 100 older persons in Kathmandu. Is it possible for you to share with us your questionnaire or tools for the assessment?

Pascale Fritsch

Yes of course Krishna, no problem, let's discuss by email

Pascale Fritsch

Hi Krishna, please email me at pfritsch@helpage.org, if you would like to discuss further.

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Author profile

Pascale Fritsch
Country: London
Job title: Emergency Health Advisor

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.