Portuguese elderly nutritional status surveillance system (PEN-3S)

Project facts

Project promoter:
Universidade de Lisboa - Faculdade de Medicina
Project Number:
Target groups
Elderly people
Initial project cost:
Final project cost:
From EEA Grants:
€ 349,112
The project is carried out in:


The rates of malnutrition can go up to 20% in community and 80% among institutionalized older people. We have no surveillance system designed to detect and act on this issue. Our goal is to design a nutritional status surveillance system at primary healthcare units and elderly rest homes and characterize the nutritional status of the older population living in Portugal and its determinants. Expected results are the early detection of malnutrition, systematization of risk identification and strategies to intervene, through education and sensitization of health professionals and adaptation of software tools. We expect to have better and more informed policies and interventions included in this surveillance. The older population, health and social professionals and public health stakeholders will benefit from the tools and knowledge produced. Bilateral relations will be strengthened, due also to the existing cooperation during this project, as well as through the increased body of knowledge from sharing experiences.

Summary of project results

Malnutrition is one of the main determinants of disease and decreased quality of life among the elderly. Preventive interventions in this area, including prevention of undernutrition and obesity, have the potential to protect health and quality of life and, to reduce health systems’ costs. In Portugal there was no recent data about elderly food consumption and habits and no recent epidemiological description of the nutritional status of the population. Despite this, it is estimated that the prevalence of malnutrition (particularly undernutrition and obesity) is high among the elderly, with some studies pointing to more than 85% of prevalence for risk for malnutrition in the elderly’s residential homes. This project aimed to characterise the nutritional status of the Portuguese population over 64 years of age and to develop an electronic surveillance system to identify malnutrition. More specifically, this project intended to (a) characterize the nutritional status of the elderly resident in the community and in residential homes, (b) to identify and characterize determinants of malnutrition among these participants and (c) to develop an electronic surveillance system for surveillance and alert (screening, diagnosis, intervention) of the nutritional status of the elderly (SEVEN-I), in the primary health care facilities and in the elderly’s residential homes. The project were able to collect data regarding Portuguese elderly nutritional status, related variables (cognitive function, depression, instrumental functionality and loneliness), dietary patterns and lifestyles in a representative sample (2300 participants living in nursing homes or in the community). The health professionals were involved in the design of the SEVEN-I through the Delphi panel contributing with their expertise to the easiness and practicability of the system and were trained to diagnose and treat symptoms of malnutrition, which facilitated adherence to SEVEN-I pilot study. The PEN-3S was able to develop and test (in 200 individuals) a surveillance system that identifies elderly at risk of malnutrition in the community and nursing homes and a formative package and user's guidelines, as well as intervention guidelines to prevent severe malnutrition (when risk is identified), such as the recommendation to perform a nutritional screening with SEVEN-I every 3 months among elderly living in nursing homes and every 6 months for those living in the community.

Summary of bilateral results

In the context of bilateral partnerships the main achievement was the partners contribution in the revision of the scientific outcomes, abstracts to oral communications and posters presentations and the published article. Project partners contributed to project dissemination through their contacts and network and are involved in next steps definition. The activities developed under the Funds for Bilateral Relations didn't result in new partnerships but they definitely contributed to strengthen the existing partnership with Oslo and Arkershus University College and with Norwegian representatives.