Food poverty tak­ing its toll on long-term health

● Lack of nu­tri­tion adds to woes of peo­ple liv­ing with con­di­tions

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY KAITLIN EAS­TON

Anew study has re­vealed food poverty’s grow­ing im­pact on the long-term health of Scots.

Re­search has found the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple forced to turn to food­banks and pantries for emer­gency sup­plies live with three or more de­bil­i­tat­ing health con­di­tions.

And the im­pact of their strug­gles to se­cure enough food for them­selves and their fam­i­lies is said to worsen those con­di­tions as well as dam­age their men­tal health.

It has led aca­demics to call upon health pro­fes­sion­als, such as GPs, to give in­creas­ing at­ten­tion to “eco­nomic vul­ner­a­bil­ity” as a po­ten­tial health risk.

Flora Dou­glas, from Robert Gor­don Univer­sity in Aberdeen, is the prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the study, which was un­der­taken in con­junc­tion with Com­mu­nity Food Ini­tia­tives North East (CFINE).

She said: “Peo­ple’s ca­pa­bil­ity to self-care is be­ing un­der­mined by food in­se­cu­rity in Scot­land.

“The in­di­vid­u­als we in­ter­viewed have in-depth knowl­edge of the diet they need to fol­low. They just couldn’t af­ford to do so, even if they were in work.

“Most of our par­tic­i­pants re­ported eat­ing just one meal per day or go­ing for sev­eral days with­out food, opt­ing in­stead to put food on the ta­ble for their de­pen­dents or to pay bills.

“This food scarcity was com­monly as­so­ci­ated by the par­tic­i­pants with caus­ing low mood or men­tal health chal­lenges.”

More than two mil­lion peo­ple in Scot­land live with one or more long-term health con­di­tions.

The most re­cent 2017 Scot­tish Health Sur­vey found that 18% of peo­ple liv­ing with lim­it­ing long­stand­ing ill­nesses were also liv­ing with food in­se­cu­rity. Poor nu­tri­tion, mixed with poor health and

Flora Dou­glas

the po­ten­tial side-ef­fects of med­i­ca­tion, can have a detri­men­tal im­pact on long-term con­di­tions.

Side-ef­fects of mul­ti­ple med­i­ca­tions can be­come stronger with poor diet, lead­ing to peo­ple di­lut­ing their pre­scrip­tions – wors­en­ing their con­di­tion and in­creas­ing health­care costs.

De­vel­op­ment work man­ager for CFINE, Dave Kil­gour, said: “Food­banks and pantries, which re­ceive gen­er­ous but un­pre­dictable food stock from ex­ter­nal sources, can­not guar­an­tee the right and sus­tain­able nu­tri­tion for peo­ple on mul­ti­ple med­i­ca­tions for long-term ill­nesses.

“We hope that this re­search de­vel­ops the con­ver­sa­tion we need to have as a so­ci­ety so that ev­ery­one, no mat­ter their back­ground, has ac­cess to the right nu­tri­tion when they need it most.”

Ms Dou­glas said: “We’ve also found that eco­nomic vul­ner­a­bil­ity – a risk fac­tor for food in­se­cu­rity – is not nec­es­sar­ily ap­par­ent dur­ing a health­care con­sul­ta­tion.

“Health pro­fes­sion­als should be alert to the fact that peo­ple’s phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, area of res­i­dence, or work sta­tus is no in­di­ca­tion of a pa­tient be­ing food-se­cure.” Peo­ple across the north­east who use food­banks and pantries, aged 26 to 83, were in­ter­viewed for the study.

Aberdeen Don­side MSP Mark McDon­ald said: “Given that many in­di­vid­u­als who find them­selves in food poverty do so as a re­sult of the wel­fare re­form agenda, it is per­haps un­sur­pris­ing that there is such a strong cor­re­la­tion with those who have long-term health con­di­tions.

“This re­search sets out the stark im­pact that this is hav­ing on the health­care sys­tem.”

Pho­to­graph by Kath Flan­nery

GROW­ING PROB­LEM: Dave Kil­gour, de­vel­op­ment work man­ager for CFINE, at the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s food­bank.

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