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Older Adult Fall Prevention

This website is a collaboration with the UW Health Falls Clinic to provide information about injuries associated with unintentional falls and best practices in fall prevention.

The Burden of Falls in Wisconsin 2010 (PDF, 5.4 MB)

Falls are a significant cause of injury in all ages of the U.S. population, but a particular burden in those ages 65 years and older.  One third of people over the age of 65 years fall every year.  Ten percent of these falls are serious enough to require hospitalization.  Falls may also lead to premature death.  Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of death from unintentional falls in the nation.  In fact, the death rate due to unintentional falls in Wisconsin is twice the national average.  The good news is falls are preventable.

By proclamation of the Governor, September is "Fall Prevention Awareness Month" and Sunday, September 22 (the first day of fall) is "Fall Prevention Awareness Day." Access Fall Prevention Awareness planning tools and resources at the National Council on Aging Website. (exit DHS)

View Wisconsin's Proclamation (PDF, 306 KB)

By declaring September "Fall Prevention Month" and September 22 "Fall Prevention Awareness Day", the message is clear: falls are not a normal part of aging and falls can be prevented.  To highlight just how this can and will be done, a detailed action plan has been produced to move the state from being one of the leaders in fall related deaths in the country to being a state where older adults live healthy, independent lives, free from falls.

Fall Prevention Among Older Adults: An Action Plan for Wisconsin P-00548 (PDF, 1 MB)

A key component, identified in the plan and supported by research and experience of experts in the field, highlights across-discipline collaboration at both the state and local levels.  Momentum is strong in Wisconsin for success.  Multiple communities have or are developing fall prevention or healthy aging coalitions.  Further, a cadre of diverse partners helped develop this plan and it will take these and new partners to implement it.  The implementation of the plan will be monitored by the state coalition:  the Fall Prevention Initiative.

Four main goals form the basis of the plan:

  1. Shape systems and policies to support fall prevention
  2. Increase public awareness about fall prevention
  3. Improve fall prevention where people live
  4. Improve fall prevention in healthcare settings

With adequate information and knowledge falls can be prevented. Research shows that effective fall prevention programs have multiple components. Visit the links to obtain information on fall prevention for each of the following groups:

Wisconsin Fall Prevention Program and Activities

Fall Prevention Initiative

The mission of the Wisconsin Falls Prevention Initiative is to reduce falls and fall-related complications and deaths among Wisconsin's older adults through the integration of community based and medical prevention approaches.  The Falls Prevention Initiative is comprised of health care practitioners, educators, researchers, organizations serving older adults, social service professionals, and staff members from the Divisions of Long Term Care and Public Health.  The group is open to all that believe in the mission and want to help refine and achieve the goals:

  • Increase education of medical community, frontline staff, care managers, caregivers, and consumers;
  • Promote continued and successful collaborations between social and medical disciplines that deliver health services and support; and
  • Identify and promote evidence-based activities and programming statewide.

Fall Prevention Survey

In the spring of 2009 the Department of Health Services and the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin conducted a survey focused on fall prevention activities. At least one person from 70 of Wisconsin's 72 counties responded to the survey -- a total of 153 participants. The survey will be repeated annually. Both a summary and the full report can be found below.

Stepping On

Stepping On is a seven week falls prevention class incorporating behavior change theory. It was found in research by Dr. Lindy Clemson of Australia to be effective in reducing falls among older adults by about 30 percent. Kenosha County brought the program to several Wisconsin counties under a Wisconsin Partnership Program grant. The Department of Health Services has expanded Stepping On to additional counties under grants from the Administration on Aging and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sure-Step

Sure Step is a multi-factorial, one-on-one intervention conducted by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or registered nurse. It is the result of research conducted by Jane Mahoney, MD, and Terry Shea, PT, in a randomized trial in Kenosha County and found to be effective in reducing falls in a subset of high risk older adults. Results to date show a 68% reduction in falls in the 6 months after the start of the intervention compared to the 6 months prior.

2007 Reports

Fall Prevention Web Links

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Last Updated: August 08, 2014