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September 2006 Topic of the Month - Falls Free™ Coalition

Falls are a primary health concern among the older adult and those with neurologic dysfunction. Tinetti(1) has indicated that 30% of people over the age of 65 years who live in the community fall each year and this proportion increases to 50% by the age of 80 years.

For the past three years, significant national activities have occurred related to balance and falls. In December 2004 a Falls Free™ Summit was held resulting in a National Action Plan to prevent falls. The Falls Free™ Coalition, a collection of national organizations and state coalitions, including the APTA, was formed
to promote collaboration among its members, to bring awareness to this issue, to promote the effectiveness of risk factor identification and intervention, and to work toward the implementation of 36 strategies within the National Action Plan. [READ MORE]

One step in this plan has resulted in Senate Bill 1531 (July 2005) and House Bill 5608 (June 2006), the Keeping Seniors Safe From Falls Act. This legislation is an effort to provide education, outreach, research and programs to reduce falls in older Americans. Physical therapists will directly benefit from this investment of the federal government, as we continue to provide education, community outreach, research and programs to prevent falls.

The legislature returns to session after Labor Day, so this is a good time to see if your legislators are supportive of these initiatives and if they are willing to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bills. If you go to the Government Affairs link on the APTA webpage, you will be able to see if your state's legislators are co- sponsors. If they have already signed on, send them a note to thank them for this. If they have not signed on as a co-sponsor, contact them to let them know this is important to you as their constituent.

In addition to direct contact with your legislators to tell them of your support of this legislation (GO to Government Affairs link on the APTA webpage), the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy Balance and Falls SIG is interested in your initiatives to prevent falls in your patients and clients with neurologic disorders.

For discussion this month, we propose the following questions:

  1. What is your state doing to address the problem of falls?
  2. Are your legislators supportive of this initiative?
  3. Is your community involved in any initiatives to prevent falls? If so, please share this with the members.
  4. Are any of these initiatives specifically designed for those with neurologic disorders?

The legislation and Falls Free™ Coalition will be discussed in the upcoming Fall Issue of the Balance and Falls SIG Newsletter and a roundtable discussion at CSM 2007.

1. Tinetti ME, Williams CS. Falls, injuries due to falls, and the risk of admission to a nursing home. N Engl J Med. 1997;337:1279-84.

Your input is welcomed on any or all of these questions. Please join the discussion being conducted on the Academy listserve - NeuroPT@yahoogroups.com.  Not a member?  Join the listserve and participate in the discussion by sending a blank email to NeuroPT-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.  We look forward to your responses. All comments are welcome.

Kristine S Legters, PT, DSc, NCS
Chair, Balance and Falls SIG

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