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Nutrition awareness app helps spot signs of child risk

Southampton researchers have developed a digital tool to support nutrition focused assessments in children.

Good nutrition is important for children’s growth and development. This can be difficult to assess during remote consultations.

A team of international nutrition experts and dietitians in Southampton have developed a nutritional awareness tool to help this challenge. It is known as the Pediatric Remote Malnutrition Application (Pedi-R-MAPP).

The app has been advanced with global partners, iterated in workshops and trialled with hundreds of patients at Southampton Children’s Hospital.

Dr Luise Marino, a Clinical Academic Paediatric Dietitian at University Hospital Southampton (UHS), led the project. She is also part of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and the Southampton Academy of Research (SoAR) Research Leaders programme.

The project included Southampton's Professor Mark Beattie, Professor Anne-Sophie Darlington and Dr James Ashton.

The team published their latest work in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Digital transformation

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most healthcare appointments began to take place via video call.

Many dietitians felt unprepared for this transition. Almost half had no formal training in delivering remote consultations. Dr Marino said:

“In March 2020, the British Dietetic Association developed guidance on remote consultations. However, it soon became clear that a digital tool would be easier for dietitians to use.”

In response, a group of European experts devised the Remote Malnutrition Application (R-MAPP). This provided a structured approach for remote nutritional assessments for adults.

The authors gave their permission for the tool to be adapted for use in children, which led a Southampton team to focus on Pedi-R-MAPP. They sought input from 20 nutrition experts around the world. They also conducted a survey which had almost 600 responses from nutrition professionals.

International team

This latest research developed Pedi-R-MAPP into a digital tool. The team used the IDEAS framework (Integrate, Design, Assess and Share) to gather feedback.

A team of specialist paediatric dietitians reported a 98% agreement with the summary advice provided by the tool compared to their own clinical assessment.

On average, it took less than two minutes to complete per consultation. Dr Marino said:

“I hope this new tool can help provide a structured approach for healthcare professionals to complete nutrition assessments from anywhere in the world. It could help reduce variation in practice and identify children who may need more targeted nutrition support.”

She added: “It could also provide helpful guidance on how often nutrition reviews are needed.”

Pedi-R-MAPP is available to use here.


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