National Falls Prevention Convenes in Washington, D.C.

The first national conference dedicated to falls prevention convened on Dec. 8- 9 in Washington, D.C. to examine the causes and prevention of falls among older Americans.

"Falls Free: Promoting a National Falls Prevention Action Plan" brought together a diverse group of health and safety organizations to tackle the serious public health issue of falls among older Americans. The Home Safety Council, the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) and the Archstone Foundation sponsored the conference. Participants grappled with many issues, including risk factor management (physical mobility, medical management, medications management, home safety and environmental safety in the community), loss of independence, and attendant medical costs related to older adult falls as they develop feasible strategies to reduce falls in older adults.

"The issue of fall-related injury and death is a significant national health concern that deserves serious attention and immediate action especially among the older adult community," said James Firman, president and CEO of NCOA. "Together with the Home Safety Council and the Archstone Foundation, we are dedicated to developing specific prevention strategies and a strong action plan to reduce falls among older adults in America."

Research from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that by 2020, the estimated cost for fall injuries for people age 65 and older is expected to reach $32.4 billion per year. In 2002, falls caused about 12,800 deaths, accounting for 38 percent of all unintentional injury deaths, and 1.6 million seniors were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments (EDs). Every hour, one older adult died and 183 were treated in EDs for fall-related injuries.

When you look specifically within the home, according to the Home Safety Council's State of Home Safety in America report (2004), falls are the leading cause of unintentional home injury and related death, resulting in an average of more than 4,700 deaths and 1.1 million medical visits each year for adults ages 65 and older.

"The high risk of suffering a serious falls injury often surprises people," said Home Safety Council President Meri-K Appy. "As a result, common hazards that are easy to fix are too often overlooked in American households. Together with health and safety organizations throughout the country, this conference will not only raise national awareness around falls among older adults, but provide a consistent direction for families to increase the safety of their homes."

As a result of the conference, a National Action Plan to Reduce Falls in the Elderly will be created and made available to the public in March 2005.

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