Washington, DC, September 18, 2023 —The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), representing the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments, observes this year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Week, which begins on September 18th and continues through September 22nd. It is more important than ever to recognize and address older adult falls prevention as a significant public health issue.
In 2020, 36,000 adults over the age of 65 died from an unintentional fall, making falls the leading cause of unintentional injury death among adults 65 and older. Additionally, more than three million older adults in the United States visited the emergency department in 2020 because of an unintentional fall, resulting in one million hospital stays and about $50 billion of medical costs. The rates of falls have also continued to rise over the years with fall death rates increasing by 41% from 55.3 per 100,000 older adults in 2012 to 78.0 per 100,000 older adults in 2021. This rise in older adult falls is expected to continue as the Baby Boomer generation ages. In addition to being costly, falls can have detrimental effects on an individual’s quality of life since it can create a fear of falling again, physical decline, social isolation, and depression.
Falls are largely preventable. However, there is a common misperception that falling is a part of the aging process. Local health departments are uniquely positioned to connect with clinically- and community-based programming that prevents older adult falls. Together, this collaboration can develop comprehensive and innovative methods to connect community-dwelling older adults with interventions to address fall risk.
An aging society requires an innovative and comprehensive approach to sustain continued health and safety. To address this, NACCHO recently published a new guide called Developing the Capacity to Support Clinical Older Adult Fall Prevention: A Guide to Local Health Departments and a corresponding workbook. These resources were designed to help local health departments engage in clinical fall prevention work by creating or expanding existing programs to meet the needs of older adults living in their communities.
NACCHO would also like to acknowledge the many local health departments who work with older adults in their communities and connect them with resources that will decrease their risk of falling. These include:
- Knox County Health Department in Knoxville, Tennessee leads a community fall prevention task force that contributes to community events in their region focusing on fall prevention – coordinating an evidence-based fall prevention program in multiple locations for older adults and partnering with two physical therapy companies to conduct free, year-round balance screening events.
- Farmington Valley Health District in Canton, Connecticut is actively addressing healthy aging and injury prevention through various initiatives such as Fall Prevention and Healthy Aging presentations, conducting fall risk assessments, and implementing the evidence-based program A Matter of Balance. Leaders most recently convened a coalition of community agencies in one of their towns, including fire, police, EMS, social and senior services, and the visiting nurse association to address the high prevalence of falls and fall-related morbidity and mortality and promote the safety and well-being of their aging population in their homes for as long as possible.
To learn more about falls prevention and the work of Knox County Health Department and Farmington Valley Health District’s efforts to address older adult falls, click here.