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Case study: UK Malnutrition Awareness Week 2018

Raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of malnutrition in older people

Published: 13 Jan 2020

MAW selfie montage

Client: BAPEN and the Malnutrition Task Force

Agency: M&F Health

Campaign: UK Malnutrition Awareness Week 2018

Timescale: N/A

A quick look

One in ten people aged over 65 in the UK is malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. The first UK Malnutrition Awareness Week in 2018 was conceived by M&F Health for BAPEN and the Malnutrition Task Force to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of malnutrition in older people, and to encourage people to talk more about malnutrition.

The campaign caught the imagination of nutrition teams across the country, captured stakeholder attention and saturated the media. Importantly, it led to an upturn in self-screening, causing hundreds of people to understand their risk status.


It is hard to persuade the national consumer media to talk about malnutrition as the news agenda is more focused on obesity. The malnutrition stories that do break through focus on patients being ‘left to starve’ in hospital, which was an angle we needed to avoid.

M&F Health also faced a significant challenge with a limited time frame of just eight weeks from approval to delivery, and limited resources in this charity-funded campaign.


M&F Health recognised that there was a need to disrupt the media agenda and bust dangerous myths about traditional ‘healthy eating’ advice being right for everybody, at every stage of their life.

Our survey uncovered the public misconception that a low-calorie, low-fat diet is always preferable, even for vulnerable older people. Our media strategy involved packaging the survey results with a call from BAPEN for older people to think again about diet, a story we knew would work for editors. An expert interview media tour ensured further message penetration.

We created a suite of materials that local teams could use to communicate with vulnerable older patients but also for local events, and in the months running up to the week we provided tips and ideas for getting involved and sharing activity on social media. Into the mix we added a selfie campaign – with the hashtag #MAWconversations, asking people to tell us what they wanted to see ‘more conversations’ about regarding malnutrition.

The social media campaign on BAPEN’s own channels was content driven, with a library of materials designed to catch the eye of people who work with potentially vulnerable older adults, and an animation that made a clear call to action.


M&F Health delivered coverage in four national print dailies (mirrored in online publications), as well as securing slots on national TV and radio outlets, along with numerous professional, consumer and regional media outlets. 100% of national print, broadcast and online coverage featured key messages and spokespeople interviews. The traditional media offered over 63 million opportunities to see the campaign.

Over 50 local nutrition teams staged local events and healthcare professionals picked up and ran with the selfie campaign that drove user- generated content. Overall there were 12.2 million opportunities to see the campaign on social media.

Most importantly, people took action – 3,264 health and social care professionals downloaded materials from the BAPEN website for onward sharing, and 461 people self-screened, 258 of whom were discovered to be at high risk of malnutrition.

Client verdict

“M&F Health created this story from scratch through the survey, and they were able to do so because they fully understand both the issues at hand and the media environment. They knew how to structure the survey to give us a news hook, but also to give us facts and figures that would work hard for us in the longer-term too. Once they had the survey data available, they were able to craft a story and walk a fine line between giving journalists what they need and making sure the story was reported responsibly too, which is far from easy in this area.

As a result our first ever UK Malnutrition Awareness Week smashed its objectives and in the months since it has brought us worldwide recognition and some fantastic new partnerships. We are not used to doing big stories like this at BAPEN, but M&F Health guided us through the process and ensured all the coverage was on-message and communicated what we wanted. It was fantastic to work with them on this project.“ Kate Hall, Communications Officer, BAPEN

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