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The Need for Fall Prevention

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and death among older adults.[1]  In 2004, fall-related injuries among Californians age 60 and older required almost 80,000 hospitalizations[2] with a mean cost of over $40,000 per hospitalization.  In recent years, increased understanding of the risks associated with falls has led to a number of improved preventive measures and interventions, but older adults still suffer from too many falls and fall-related injuries.[3]

Persons are at varying levels of risk for falling depending on several factors, including a history of falling and fall-related injuries, mobility impairment, balance problems, low physical activity levels, and hazardous living environments. Special risks are associated with multiple medications, mental and memory impairments, and decreasing bone density. Falling, however, is not an inevitable part of aging.  Preventative measures include physical activity incorporating balance and strengthening exercises, environmental modifications in the home and community, use of assistive devices (such as canes), and careful medication management.[4]

Fall Prevention Advocacy

The year 2008 has been an exciting time for fall prevention.  At the federal level, the Safety of Seniors Act of 2007 (S. 845) was passed in April.  This bill calls for the expansion of public health programs, educational outreach, and research activities related to fall prevention.  Although this bill has no funding at present, it is raising awareness of falls and their consequences.  Advocates like you are urging Congress to provide funding to implement the Act.

At the state level, Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) introduced legislation (SCR 77) that would declare the first week in autumn as “Fall Prevention Awareness Week.”  Although fall prevention is receiving attention at both the national and state levels, more work needs to be done in our cities and communities.  This toolkit is meant to serve as a guide for those interested in becoming involved with fall prevention advocacy at the local level.  In this toolkit, you will find ideas to get you started and tools that will assist you in your efforts.

Thank you for advocating on behalf of fall prevention!

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[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.  Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2006) [cited 2008 May 8]. Available from URL:www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars.

[2,3,4] Proceedings of the 2007 California Fall Prevention Summit:  Progress, Challenges & Next Steps (2008). Los Angeles: University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, p. 4.