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03/28/12 – Forty Organizations Work Together to Prevent Falls in Older Adults

by Kimberley Horn Watkins

Project Coordinator, Tri-County Health Department
Kimberley Horn Watkins, Project Coordinator, Tri-County Health Department
In 2006, more than 40 organizations with a vested interest in the health and well-being of older adults formed a community collaborative to address one of the most prevalent issues threatening the independence of older adults – slips, trips and falls. With more than 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 400 deaths each year due to falls, Colorado has witnessed an astonishing $263 million in hospitalization charges each year for older adult fall-related injuries. With 2011 marking the first year that the baby boomer generation turned 65, the Collaborative knew all too well that the costs to our health care system and to older adult quality of life would continue to increase unless something was done to slow the trend.

Funded through The Colorado Trust's Partnerships for Health Initiative (PHI) and led by Tri-County Health Department, members joined the Collaborative recognizing the growing need for effective fall prevention services for older adults. During a six month community planning process, the Collaborative discovered that older adults were not receiving the multiple interventions needed to effectively address fall risk, partly due to services being diverse by nature and cutting across disciplines (e.g., balance and strength training, medication review, vision screening, home safety modification). Because of this diversity, no single organization or program could adequately address them all. Coordination among providers that do not traditionally work together was essential but very challenging to achieve, especially as the demand for services was increasing and resources were decreasing.

In response, the Collaborative developed an ambitious plan to connect and coordinate diverse service providers so that older adults could have improved access to fall prevention services. These services are intended to ultimately keep older adults healthier and independent longer, while also reducing the economic burden to our health care system. From these efforts, the Fall Prevention Network (FPN) was created. The FPN is a unique central point of coordination and a free referral service that assesses older adults' fall risk, connects them to fall prevention services, increases awareness of fall risk and coordinates service providers. Through the FPN, older adults in the Denver metro area now have access to multiple, coordinated services to help reduce their fall risk.

At the completion of the PHI in August 2011, the Collaborative established a self-sustaining infrastructure to continue the operation of the FPN without ongoing dedicated funding. Members of the Collaborative are proud to report that the continuing operations of FPN have been integrated into an existing nonprofit organization and a leadership board is in place to provide oversight, maintain the vision and facilitate the growth of the Fall Prevention Network over time.

For information about the Fall Prevention Network and fall prevention services available to older adults residing in the Denver metro area, please call 303-922-5555.

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