Staying Safe with Falls Prevention Awareness Day

CDC researchers address risks and fall prevention for older Americans.

September 17, 2018

Next Saturday, Sept. 22, is the first day of fall, and it is also Falls Prevention Awareness Day. CDC and the National Safety Council are working together to raise awareness about older adult falls and how to prevent them.

Falls are a major cause of unintentional death and injury, but pose an especially significant threat to the health and independence of older Americans. Each year, more than one in four adults aged 65 and older experience a fall. This results in 3 million emergency department visits for fall injuries, over 800,000 hospitalizations, and 30,000 deaths.

A recent CDC publication found that deaths due to a fall increased more than 30% between 2007 and 2016, with more than 60% of states reporting an increase in fall deaths. By 2030, 59,000 older Americans, or 162 per day, are projected to die from a fall.Falls are already the number one cause of preventable injury-related death for those 65 and older.

In addition to rising death rates, the medical costs associated with falls are sizable. In 2015, total medical costs to treat older adult falls exceeded $50 billion.As the U.S. baby boomer population ages, both the number of fall injuries and the resulting expenditures are expected to increase substantially if more is not done to prevent falls.

Fall injuries can vary in their severity, but often result in a traumatic brain injury or hip fracture. These more serious injuries can make it hard for a person to get around, do everyday activities, or live on their own. Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, become afraid of falling. This fear may cause them to cut down on their everyday activities. When a person is less active, they become weaker, and this increases their chances of falling again.

The promising news is that falls are not an inevitable part of aging and many falls can be prevented. A new CDC report showed that U.S. healthcare providers are able to prevent thousands of falls by using what we know works.The study found that implementing a specific evidence-based fall prevention interventions (e.g., medication management, home modifications led by an occupational therapist) on a large scale could avert between $94 and $442 million in direct medical costs annually, not to mention improve the health and wellbeing of older Americans.

CDC’s STEADI Initiative equips healthcare providers —including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and pharmacists— with the tools and resources they need to reduce falls among their older patients. STEADI’s tools and educational materials can help providers:

  • identify patients at risk for a fall,
  • identify modifiable risk factors,
  • offer effective interventions to reduce risk, and
  • motivate patients to make simple changes in their daily behaviors and in their homes.

CDC also offers tools and resources to states and local organizations interested in preventing older adult falls.CDC provides guidance to states on how to estimate state-level direct medical spending due to older adult falls and explains their differences, advantages, and limitations. These estimates can help states make informed decisions about how to allocate funding to reduce falls and promote healthy aging.

We hope that you will join CDC and NSC, in promoting fall prevention on September 22nd and throughout the year.Visit the CDC and NSC websites to learn more about how to help your loved ones stay falls free.

Robin Lee, PhD

Robin Lee, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist and the Team Lead for the Home and Recreation Team within Home, Recreation and Transportation Branch, Division of Unintentional Injuries, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC).

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