Low-cost fall-prevention program reduced falls in older adults

A low-cost program composed of existing services for seniors reduced falls by 17%, according to study results published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers recruited 814 older adults who completed Pennsylvania’s Healthy Steps for Older Adults (HSOA) at various senior center sites and 1,019 older adults from the same sites who did not complete the program for comparison. The average age of study participants was 75.4 years. Researchers used a telephone interactive voice response system to collect the number of falls that occurred each month.

The program was designed to be administered by volunteers at senior centers to keep costs low. The state reimbursed the centers $70 per person in the program between 2010 and 2011.

The two groups did not differ in fall risk at baseline. Multivariate models showed adjusted fall incidence rate ratios were lower in the HSOA group vs. the comparison group for both total and activity-adjusted months of follow-up. According to study results, 21.5% of participants who completed the program and were informed they were at high risk for fall followed up with physicians. More than three-quarters of program participants at high risk conducted home safety assessments and a third reduced home hazards.

“There is a high prevalence of falls among people 65 and older that increases with age, as does the inability to get up after a fall,” Steven Albert, PhD, chairman of the department of behavioral and community health sciences at Pitt Public Health, stated in a news release. “Though further analyses will be necessary to understand specifically how these actions translated into a 17% reduction in falls, it appears that referrals for physician care and home safety assessments, along with informing older adults of their high-risk status and heightening their sensitivity to situations involving a risk of falling, may lead to reductions in falls.”

For more information:

Albert SM. Am J Public Health. 2014;doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301829.

Disclosure: Research was funded by the CDC.

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