The Hawaii State Department of Health collaborated in a public-private campaign from May 29–July 31, 2014, to raise awareness among seniors on fall prevention techniques. The AARP, Foodland Supermarkets, the Hawaii Community Pharmacy Association, KTA Superstores, Mina Pharmacies, and Times Supermarkets all participated in the campaign. Workshops on fall prevention, a public service documentary, medication reviews, and balance testing were some of the programs specifically designed for seniors.
The campaign addressed a serious problem for seniors everywhere. Health department director Dr. Linda Rosen says, “Every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a senior is transported by ambulance to an emergency room in our state. Yet many falls, and fall-related injuries can be prevented with existing knowledge and technology.”
US Trends in Falls Among Senior Citizens
National statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mirror Hawaii’s trends:
- One third of seniors fall annually, but less than half of those who fall report it to their doctors.
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among seniors.
- In 2010, emergency rooms treated 2.3 million older adults for nonfatal falls.
- In the same year, 662,000 of those seen in the emergency room required admission to the hospital.
- In 2010, direct medical costs due to falls in older people reached $30 billion (inflation adjusted).
Hawaii’s Fall Prevention Program Details
The Hawaii health department’s campaign offered a number of different initiatives. Among these:
- Almost 100 participating pharmacists conducted free in-store balance tests and medication reviews by appointment.
- The AARP and the department of health presented “Simple Steps to Fall Prevention, Better Health, and a Home for Life,” an interactive workshop for the public. The event consisted of fall prevention tips, tai chi exercises, and more.
- Honolulu buses displayed posters with fall prevention tips.
- Participating retail outlets stuffed 82,000 bags with fall prevention tips and additional resources for seniors.
- Public access TV ran 30-minute documentaries. The videos were also available to senior clubs.
- The health department launched a new, interactive fall prevention guide to help seniors identify community resources.
- Tai chi instructor workshops took place in several locations. (Harvard Medical School recommends tai chi as a way to improve balance, which can help reduce the risk of falls.)
You can participate from the comfort of your computer and learn more on the Hawaii Department of Health’s campaign website.
Help Spread the Word on Fall Prevention
This program can serve as a template for your state or local health department. You can point your local community center, medical practitioners, YMCAs, etc., to the campaign website and try to interest them in running a local campaign.
You can also pay it forward by pointing all your senior friends (and your not-so-senior friends) to this article and the campaign website. Ask your local YMCA or senior center to add tai chi classes, since they can help with balance issues. Finally, consider a personal medical alert system that can automatically call for help, if it detects falls.
Anything we can do together to reduce the number of falls among seniors not only helps us as individuals, but it frees medical resources fto focus attention on patients with the most acute needs. Knowledge is power — the more we share this information, the more we become a part of the solution.