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As a fall prevention advocate, you have several options to pursue as outlined below. This section of the toolkit will guide you through seven steps:

Advocacy Efforts

Step 1: Identifying your advocacy goal

Always start by clarifying your advocacy plans for yourself: What are you asking for? What costs are involved? What would be provided as a result? What benefits will result? We encourage you to carefully analyze the political, budgetary, and cultural climate in your community as you choose your advocacy goals to increase the odds for success. Working with your stakeholders will also help in this process. Generating ideas with older adults and including them in the advocacy process will bring more power to your message. Potential advocacy goals are listed in the Menu of Advocacy Options and outlined in Step 3 below.

Step 2: Identifying your target audience

Depending on your chosen advocacy goals, there are several groups of people who may be able to assist you with your efforts:

Group 1: Public Health Department directors and Area Agency on Aging directors and/or planners.

Group 2: Elected officials (such as state legislators, county board of supervisors, city council, the mayor) and other important officials (such as the city manager, urban planners, housing staffers, the parks & recreation supervisor, and senior services directors)

Group 3: The media, such as local radio stations, talk show hosts, local news, and newscasters

Step 3: Setting the agenda for advocacy meetings / presentations

In this section, possible discussion topics for each of the three groups mentioned above are presented. Not all of the following topics are appropriate for all communities, and as noted above, your choice of discussion items will depend on your advocacy goal and the current climate in your community. This list is by no means exhaustive. Add your suggestions to the list and share your good ideas with others.

Group 1: Possible topics to discuss with Public Health Department directors and Area Agency on Aging directors and/or planners include:

  • describing the problem of falls
  • citing current successful fall prevention activities already taking place in the community
  • adopting fall prevention as a priority and including it in area plans
  • encouraging contracted service providers to incorporate fall prevention into their activities through a requirement in theRequest for Proposals process
  • Allocate funds for permanent staff at Area Agencies on Aging / Department of Public Health to oversee fall prevention efforts
  • creating a fall prevention task force or supporting an existing one
  • supporting efforts to gather local fall-related data from hospitals and emergency medical services

Group 2:  Possible topics to discuss with elected officials, other important officials and their staff:

  • describing the problem of falls
  • citing current successful fall prevention activities already taking place in the community
  • passing proclamations in support of Fall Prevention Awareness week in September 2008
  • adopting fall prevention efforts as a community priority
  • including fall prevention guidelines in county general plans
  • supporting a new or existing fall prevention task force
  • including fall prevention guidelines in local planning documents related to housing, parks and recreation, transportation, circulation, street and sidewalk repair, and emergency and disaster efforts
  • allocate funds for permanent staff at Area Agencies on Aging / Department of Public Health to oversee fall prevention efforts
  • using planning tools, such as condition of approval, to provide incentives for local developers to incorporate the principles of universal design and home modification
  • supporting programs that provide home modifications, fall prevention education , medication review, fall risk assessments and strength/balance classes
  • supporting community audits related to safety and walkability; of particular interest are intergenerational walkability audits (see http://www.caphysicalactivity.org/walkkit/, page 26)

Group 3: The media receives many contacts from individuals and organizations and is likely the most difficult of the three groups to contact. Media professionals who would make good contacts are those who write or discuss health, community, or senior issues. Materials sent to the media should be short, precise, and eye-catching. Also, you are more likely to receive attention if you can show the media how it (the media) will be helping the public by publicizing and supporting fall prevention. It really helps to have a link to a specific news event; for example, a proclamation being issued or a hearing held.

Topics of interest to discuss include:

  • creating awareness of falls and the need for fall prevention
  • providing fall prevention education
  • providing information to the media about how the media and the public can become involved in fall prevention efforts
  • findings about the public costs of senior falls

Step 4: Preparing written materials

Regardless of the advocacy goals you choose, preparing written materials is a key ingredient to success. The following types of materials are useful to bring to your meetings as visuals. They are useful to your audience as you make your presentation and also serve as reminders of your visit once you have left the agency or organization:

Step 5: Making contact

Since all of these individuals are regularly flooded with requests for their time and attention, it is best to provide them with information in a variety of formats to gain their attention. Sending a Letters with a press release, followed by a telephone call, provides a good start. It may take several phone calls and emails to receive a reply, but persistence and patience often pay off. Elected officials respond to their constituents, and it is important to get their staff on board as well as the staff from any group with whom you become involved.

Step 6: Meeting with your target audience

Once you have made contact and secured a meeting date, prepare the materials as described in Step 4. Even if you have already given these materials to the person or group with whom you will be meeting, be sure to bring copies for everyone, and include extra copies. Bringing older adult advocates with you will make your audience listen more closely to your message, especially if they talk about what is going well and not just what is needed. In addition, not all solutions are costly, and this should be stressed, too. (For example, the need for signage to allow opposite sex individuals to assist the disabled in bathrooms.)

Because the schedules of public officials, agency directors, and the media often change unexpectedly, be prepared for a short meeting (5 minutes or less), even if you have been promised a longer time. Bring up the most important agenda items first, including how you would like your audience to participate (for example, by creating a fall prevention task force) and how you will help in the effort. If you are speaking at a public meeting, submit written documents to the staff member in charge before the meeting so that it is recorded in the public record. Whether the meeting is a public meeting or a one-on-one meeting, your presentation may get postponed. Be persistent and ask to be put on the agenda for the next meeting.

At the end of the meeting, make sure that each person or group understands what they are expected to do. Set a follow-up date when you and the group will meet again or talk by phone to ascertain progress and ensure that action items have been completed.

Step 7: Following up

After a meeting, it is important to thank those who participated, especially if they have agreed to help you with fall prevention efforts. While it is easy to send an email thanking someone, a letter or hand-written note will carry more weight because it shows you made an extra effort to thank them. This also provides a good opportunity to mention what each side has agreed to do.

As mentioned above, remember to follow up to ensure the completion of action items and next steps. More importantly, offer to help in the process in any way that you can and to provide any additional information needed. Often, it will be you and a staff member who make things happen.

The advocacy process is a relationship-building process. The better your target audience gets to know you, the better the process will go. Sending along new tidbits and ideas that fit with what you have already been discussing will help build your relationship and contribute to your success.