Understanding frailty is the key to better population health management

One of the main takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic, from a public health perspective, is the glaring need for a better understanding of our frail populations.

11 May 2020 | 2 min read

As I discussed in a previous LinkedIn post, frail and vulnerable cohorts of the population are more at risk from developing a severe case of the virus, knowing the regions where there are higher numbers of vulnerable people can help local healthcare systems be more prepared and better manage their resources. Following our recent work on a global frailty score, Dr Foster’s analytical team was able to use a frailty score to help to pinpoint these areas in England.

This frailty score is also being used by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to help it work more closely with partners across the health system. By identifying individuals who have a high score, the trust can closely monitor these patients in hospitals and ensure that once discharged they have greater levels of support at home to avoid readmission.

Frailty is also an important aspect of the work that the British Red Cross is undertaking to identify where people will need most assistance during this time and where people are likely to find it difficult collecting food parcels due to frailty. The British Red Cross has used our frailty analysis to create a COVID-19 vulnerability index for the UK, mapping clinical vulnerability, economic vulnerability, social vulnerability and other health and wellbeing needs.

We are currently working with the British Red Cross to expand on this work, using a mobility indicator to further pinpoint where people may have difficulty picking up food packages from their doorsteps.

With the UK’s over-65 high-dependency population set to grow rapidly to more than one million by 2035, it will become increasingly important for healthcare systems and the third sector to have a detailed knowledge of frailty within their local populations. The ‘new normal’ post-COVID world is going to be one where this type of analysis becomes routine, and Dr Foster’s work is helping to build a valuable foundation of knowledge in this area.

To find out more about Dr Foster’s work on frailty, please get in touch.