Act together to prevent falls, experts urge govts

Coordinated government action could reduce falls by a third in one year, according to a new report.

Coordinated government action could reduce falls by a third in one year, according to a new report from the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society and backed by researchers, academics, clinicians and consumer groups.

The report – launched at Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney on Thursday – says immediate action targeting prevention of falls will deliver swift returns.

“Within months of program implementation, falls will be significantly reduced in number and severity. Program delivery will target appropriate evidence-based services, including: exercise, multifactorial approaches such as better medication management, modifications to the home and residential aged care environments, and podiatric interventions for those with disabling foot pain,” the authors write.

The report makes five recommendations to governments to prevent falls – and reduce the annual $2-billion-plus it costs to treat related injuries. They include developing and implementing a five-year national plan that is funded to reach a critical mass of older people living in the community and residential care.

ANZFPS’ report Why investing in falls prevention across Australia can’t wait also calls for prevention strategies for people across the lifespan and settings – including aged care – to maximise benefits.

According to research presented in the report aged care residents were over five times more likely to be hospitalised with hip fractures than those living in the community. “While age and frailty would be expected to be different for these two groups, it indicates that strategies to address this risk in residential aged care facilities also need to be considered,” the author’s wrote.

A life-threatening issue

Australia’s leading falls, balance and injury experts came together at Thursday’s launch to urge federal, state and local governments to commit to taking coordinated action on falls prevention.

Professor Kim Delbaere

ANZFPS president, NeuRA senior principal research scientist and report co-author Professor Kim Delbaere said falls caused people to lose their independence and their lives.

“Fall injuries often result in significant concerns about falling again and social isolation, with ongoing impacts on overall quality of life. They are also the leading cause of hospitalised injuries and injury deaths in people aged 65 years above – and should be looked at as an urgent public health concern,” she said.

Professor Delbaere said there had been a policy gap on the life-threatening issue of falls affecting thousands of older people since the National Injury Prevention and Safety Strategy 2004–2014 lapsed eight years ago.

“Strong evidence suggests that coordinated government action on falls prevention will have quick returns, with the potential for falls to be reduced by 30 per cent in just one year and long-term benefits for health, quality of life and independence of older Australians.”

Exercise part of the solution

Research shows there is one fall-related visit to an emergency department by an older Australian every two-and-a-half minutes, said fellow report co-author Professor Cathie Sherrington – chief investigator of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence – Prevention of Falls Injuries based at The University of Sydney.

“The ageing of the Australian population means that the problem of fall-related injuries and deaths will worsen if we continue to fail to take preventive action,” she said.

International guidelines recommend a tailored approach with support for exercise to maximise physical function throughout life and health care to address other risk factors. We have found that investment in fall prevention programs can be cost-effective.”

Other recommendations in the report call for:

  • the establishment of a National Falls Prevention Coordination Group, modelled on the coordinated and nationally funded action in the United States and United Kingdom, adapted for the Australian context and informed by previous initiatives in Australia and New Zealand
  • engage all levels of government and a broad range of sectors, including health and aged care, housing, transport, and planning and development
  • greater investment in translational falls prevention research.

Main image: Dr Diana Olsberg shares her personal experience of having a fall and the impact of falls on social isolation and mobility at the report’s launch

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Tags: anzfps, cathie-sherrington, falls-prevention, featured, Kim-delbaere, neura,

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