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Ellen Schneider, Carolina Geriatric Education Center, assisted in planning and participated in the Congressional Falls Prevention Briefing held in Washington, D.C. on September 21st. The purpose of the meeting was to raise awareness of the growing public health issue of older adult falls and to discuss a new study in the July Journal of Trauma (Hartholt, K. et al. 2011). Data for this study was obtained from the National Electronic Injury Survelliance System All injury program (NEISS-AIP). This 8 year study, taking patients’ age into account learned that the rate of hospital admissions for older adult fall injuries in the US increased by 31%.

The meeting was hosted by Senator Herb Kohl (D, WI), who also sponsored the 2011 National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. Speakers included representatives from the National Council on Aging (NCOA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Administration on Aging (AoA), MaineHealth, and University of Wisconsin. Get the slides. A special highlight of the event was video testimonials from older adults from Maine and Wisconsin who have benefited from falls prevention programs in their communities. Watch the Maine video. Watch the Wisconsin video.

At the meeting, a representative from the Senate Special Committee on Aging announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee added a line item in their Labor, Health and Education proposal for the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support elder falls prevention activities at the AoA for $7,000,000. The funds would be used for public education about the risk of falls, as well as implementation and dissemination of community-based strategies that have been proven to reduce the incidence of falls among seniors. Another line item was also added for the CDC to receive $3,000,000 to conduct research to evaluate and disseminate the most effective falls prevention interventions and that the AoA use the funding provided to them to conduct outreach and demonstration programs to expand the implementation of effective interventions. The Prevention and Public Health Fund, part of the Affordable Care Act, is being vigorously debated in the House and Senate and may not survive. However, the recognition of the issue of older adult falls in the proposed funding is significant.

Hartholt KA, Stevens JA, Polinder S, van der Cammen TJM., and Patka, P. Increase in Fall-Related Hospitalizations in the United States 2001-2008. The Journal of Trauma Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. 2011 Jul; 71(1):255—8.