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FALL PREVENTION PROGRAM HELPS SENIORS
A community-based fall prevention program effectively reduced the risk for falls among older adults, researchers said here.
The evidence-based program, called Step Up to Stop Falls, includes exercise, home assessment/modification, and community and/or healthcare provider education, according to Mary Gallant, PhD, MPH, at the University of Albany School of Public Health in Rensselaer, N.Y., and colleagues.
Exercise participants in the program saw significantly higher Timed-Up-and-Go (TUG) scores, Gallant reported at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. In addition, among those participants who had their homes inspected or modified, 60% resolved 100% of identified hazards, they added.
Finally, participants in the community educational programs demonstrated a significant increase in their belief that they could do things to reduce the risk of falls. Women were more likely than men to have actually done something in the past year to achieve that goal, the authors said. The program was coordinated by seven counties in upstate New York. In total, 2,073 adults, ages 61 to 80, took part in the study with 1,018 in exercise programs, 591 in home assessments, and 464 in an education arm.
Gallant's group conducted a cross-collaborative evaluation to examine the reach and impact of the program's activities over an 18-month period. They also assessed the attitudes and actions of healthcare providers regarding fall prevention interventions. In the exercise program, 33% of participants were over age 80 as were 42% of those in the education program, and 51% in the home assessment group. Among those ages 61 to 80, 61% participated in exercise, 43% in home assessment, 47% in education. The vast majority of participants (80%) were women, Gallant told MedPage Today.
Healthcare professionals were the most difficult group to engage, Gallant's group said. However, of 183 clinicians who participated in the education program, there was a significant change in the extent to which they agreed that they could do things to reduce their patients' risk of falling.
"This project shows that community agencies working together can successfully coordinate evidence-based fall prevention programs," Gallant said. "More importantly, they can succeed in reducing the risk of falls in patients up to the age of 80."
Preventing unintentional falls among seniors (65 and up) is crucial, commented David Sugerman, MD, MPH, from the CDC in Atlanta, adding that falls can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Sugerman gave a separate APHA talk on fall prevention. He said that about one-third of older U.S. adults fall annually, and even though many outcomes are minor, between 10% and 20% sustain serious damage, such as traumatic brain injury, contusions, and fractures.