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Big C Awarded NHS Charities Grant for First of Its Kind Cancer ‘Nourish & Nurture’ Intervention, designed for individuals living with cancer.

13 January 2022

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The work of local cancer charity, Big C, has been recognised with a national grant from NHS Charities Together.

Bids were encouraged from across Norfolk and Waveney to run projects covering support for older people, vulnerable communities and those with physical and mental health issues.

Big C’s grant of £49,752 will be used to pilot a 12-week patient-centred nutrition and wellness intervention programme for individuals living with cancer, aimed at educational lifestyle, behavioural change and psychological support. The ‘Nourish & Nurture’ programme focuses on well-rounded, evidence based, holistic care, including education on healthy eating, weight management and ‘mood and food’, plus health walks for mental and physical wellbeing, 1:1 psychological support, cancer support groups, wellbeing complementary therapies and food and nutrition myth busting sessions. The team at Big C will work closely with oncology dieticians from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

Dr Melanie Pascale, Director of Charitable Operations at Big C said, “We are thrilled to receive this important grant so that we can embark on this innovative nutrition and wellness intervention. I believe this will be the first complete 360 holistic care package for patients following a cancer diagnosis, designed to complement and run alongside their clinical care. Small group sessions will enhance empathetic peer support, facilitated by experienced cancer specialist nurses, dieticians, nutritionists and physical activity coaches. A healthy and well-balanced diet that provides adequate nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment. Correct nutrition provides patients with the ability to recover between cancer treatments and as a result, has the potential to improve their clinical outcomes and quality of life.”

Dr Melanie Pascale continued, “The prevalence of malnutrition among patients with cancer, especially patients receiving some types of chemotherapy is high and presents a significant public health burden. Stage of cancer, appetite loss and presence of side effects such as diarrhoea are significant factors for malnutrition. Furthermore, malnutrition and lean muscle wastage is a common problem among patients with cancer, potentially affecting up to 85% of patients with certain cancer types. Malnutrition occurs when a person doesn’t get enough food or the right type of food, or experiences absorption issues. Inadequate dietary intake and reduced physical activity can lead to malnutrition and remains a common challenge due to the many factors which may lead to the issue. Regardless of cancer type, the overall prevalence of malnutrition in patients at time of diagnosis can be up to 60% and can be over 80% during treatment. Cancer treatment can be impeded by the frequent development of malnutrition and metabolic derangements in patients with cancer, induced by the cancer itself, or by its treatment.

“Malnutrition can influence the effectiveness and response to the cancer treatment, recovery time during treatments, prognosis, continued compliance with treatment and overall quality of life. It can increase the time spent in hospital and the risk of infection. Malnutrition also has the potential to reduce the survival rate.”

Some of the many aims and benefits of this intervention will be to identify, prevent or reverse dietary deficiencies, preserve lean body mass, help patients better tolerate treatments, maintain strength and minimise treatment related side effects and protect immune function decreasing the risk of infection. One of the most important aspects of the intervention, is to help the patient regain a sense of control in what can be a very uncertain time. Up to 80% of patients diagnosed with cancer could benefit from this type of intervention, improving quality of life and clinical outcomes with less pausing of essential treatment due to the uncontrolled side effects. The programme also aims to support the NHS by reducing the risk of infections and lessen severe side effects resulting in re-admission.

The NHS Charities Together grant was facilitated by the Norfolk Community Foundation with finances administered by the Norfolk & Norwich Hospitals Charity, on behalf of the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System.

John Paul Garside, Director of the Norfolk & Norwich Hospitals Charity, said, “We are delighted to be supporting this important work to help the vulnerable communities in Norfolk and Waveney.  Our hospitals have seen at first hand the devastation that the pandemic has brought to people’s health and we want to do everything we can to support the recovery.”

Claire Cullens, Chief Executive of Norfolk Community Foundation, said, “During the Covid-19 pandemic, our fantastic charities and community groups have been the glue that has held communities together and offered a vital lifeline to many, helping people to cope day to day, or with an urgent response to sudden crisis. We’re proud to champion their innovation and determination as they continue to tackle the physical and psychological impact of a global crisis.”

If you are interested in taking part in Big C’s Nourish & Nurture programme, please contact the charity on 0800 092 7640 or email support@big-c.co.uk

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