Preventing falls in older Australians
With more than 83,000 Australians aged 65 and over hospitalised following falls in 2010, a new program aims to connect patients with proven fall-prevention measures and reduce the strain on the health system.
Federal Minister for Health The Honourable Tanya Plibersek announced National Health and Medical Research Council funding of $1.5 million for the RESPOND falls prevention project, led by Monash University’s Dr Anna Barker.
Almost 50 per cent of older people who present to emergency departments (EDs) after falling re-present to the ED within six months. One of 11 Partnerships for Better Health programs announced, RESPOND aims to ease the strain on the nation’s EDs by intervening after the first fall and reducing re-presentations in fallers by 30 per cent.
Dr Barker, from the Monash University Centre of Research Excellence in Patient Safety is a physiotherapist and falls researcher.
“RESPOND will help patients better navigate the complex health system to access services they need such as vision and medication assessments and exercise programs that are known to prevent falls,” Dr Barker said.
Despite the strong evidence that these strategies reduce further falls, less than 30 per cent of fallers discharged from the ED access the services recommended by hospital staff.
“We know there are effective strategies to prevent people from falling. The challenge is working with older people to increase participation in these strategies. RESPOND will address this unmet need,” Dr Barker said.
Monash University’s Professor Peter Cameron, a RESPOND chief investigator and President of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine said the Victorian and West Australian project would bring together leading Australia and the UK falls researchers and ED clinicians.
“Demand for ED services has increased 32 per cent beyond that predicted by population changes over the last decade and this rise is disproportionately driven by older people,” Professor Cameron said.
Curtin University’s Professor Keith Hill a leading Australian falls researcher and RESPOND chief investigator said the RESPOND team had the required expertise and clinical partnerships to reduce ED presentations for falls.
“This program could reduce the strain on the entire emergency care system,” Professor Hill said.
Partners in the RESPOND project include the Alfred, Royal Perth and Sir Charles Gardiner Hospitals, West Australian Department of Health, Injury Control Council of Western Australia, Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation, Centre for Clinical Research in Emergency Medicine, Centre of Research Excellence in Patient Safety at Monash University, University of Western Australia, George Institute for Global Health and Curtin University.
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