Department of Health Observes ‘Falls Prevention Awareness Day’ Sept. 23

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HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Health joins 33 other states in celebrating “Falls Prevention Awareness Day” on Sept. 23, the first full day of fall.
The department’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program joins the Falls Free™ Coalition, which includes 70 organizations nationwide, to reduce fall-related injury and death among older adults.
“In 2008, more than 1,000 older Pennsylvanians died from injuries related to a fall.  In addition, over 45,000 older adults, ages 65 and older, were hospitalized for a fall, resulting in over $2 billion in medical costs,” said Janice Kopelman, deputy secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. “We need to raise awareness of preventive measures that can prevent injuries and save lives.”
Falls are the leading causes of fatal injuries for those 65 and older, with more than 18,000 older Americans dying every year — a rate that has risen dramatically over the past decade. When older adults fall, it often leads to a loss of independence, reduced mobility, and earlier admission to a nursing home.
Studies show that a combination of interventions can significantly reduce falls in the older adult population. Experts recommend regular exercise with balance, strength training, and flexibility components; consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment; having medications reviewed periodically; getting eyes checked annually; and making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.
Pennsylvania has implemented a program called A Matter of Balance, or MOB, which is designed to help people manage concerns about falls and increase physical activity. The program uses a variety of activities to address physical, social and cognitive factors affecting fear of falling and to learn fall prevention strategies.
The Department of Health partnered with the Chester and Montgomery county health departments to offer trainings to become a Master Trainer for the MOB program. Becoming a Master Trainer will prepare individuals to not only market the program, but also recruit and train volunteers to lead MOB classes and curriculum and work with volunteer coaches to coordinate programs that reach a broader audience of older adults in the community.
The trainings are supported by Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant funds.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging also offers a falls prevention program for adults 50 years of age and older. The Healthy Steps for Older Adults program is designed to raise awareness of falls, introduce steps on how to reduce falls, improve overall health, and provide referrals and resources. Find more information online at www.aging.state.pa.us.
For more information, visit the Department of Health online www.health.state.pa.us or call 1-877-PA HEALTH.

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