MDCH Stresses Importance Of Injury Prevention For The Aging

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

August 8, 2006

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), in collaboration with the Michigan Fall Prevention Partnership, is stressing physician intervention and fall prevention programs and clinics as effective means of reducing falls among older adults.

"Falls can be devastating, especially for the elderly," said Janet Olszewski, MDCH Director. “The work of the Michigan Fall Prevention Partnership can help give doctors and older adults the tools they need to work together to identify and manage the characteristics that make individuals prone to falling."

The Michigan Fall Prevention Partnership is a 30-member coalition, comprised of representatives from public health, health care, academia and the aging services network concerned about education and interventions to help adults over the age of 65 prevent falls.

Research conducted by the Injury and Violence Prevention Section of the Michigan Department of Community Health—funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—found that patients in an intervention group receiving fall prevention clinic services had 34 percent fewer falls than patients receiving usual care.

As many as 80 percent of emergency room visits for injuries in those over 65 are for falling, about half of which need hospitalization. Falling is the most common cause of hip fractures and a serious fall can cause decreased mobility, activity level, and a decline in body functions that could lead to an increased susceptibility to infections, further disability, and even death. In 2002, medical costs related to falls that happened in Michigan reached an estimated $659 million.

"Falling is not an inevitable part of aging. The steps we take now to address the problem will improve the quality of life to a growing number of older adults," said Sharon Gire, Director of the Office of Services to the Aging. "It will help ensure their independence and safety, and has the potential to save the state of Michigan millions in health care costs.”

Falls can be prevented in the home through maintaining a regular exercise regimen to retain balance and strength and by reducing possible falling hazards such as rugs and cords, poor lighting, and uneven steps. Older adults and their families can also be aware of health factors that can contribute to the likelihood of falling and injury, such as poor vision, side effects of medications, osteoporosis, and heart conditions. Falls that do occur, even if injury is not obvious, should be reported to a physician who can refer the patient to a rehab facility or local fall prevention services.

For more information about the Michigan Fall Prevention Partnership, the study, and brochures for older adults and health professionals, please visit www.michigan.gov/injuryprevention.