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Falls prevention among older people: development of effective interventions and improvement of uptake and adherence to services

Falls prevention

Accidents among the over-65s cost the NHS and social care in the UK an estimated £5.6 million each day.

Worldwide, some 30% to 40% of older people suffer falls each year, with 50% resulting in injuries.

However, a team led by Professor Chris Todd has helped shape new policy both nationally and internationally that has contributed to reducing the burden of falls worldwide.

Researchers produced strong evidence to show that a simple programme of structured exercises could lead to a 31% reduction in falls.

They also identified a need for new approaches in encouraging people to take steps to improve their chances of living longer independently.

Studies showed that over-65s did not necessarily identify with falls prevention advice or the personal risk of falling.

The findings have resulted in significant changes in recent years to the way services are delivered, with a shift away from emphasising risks and dangers to promoting the role of exercise as an essential tool in maintaining mobility.

Nationally, the team's approach has been adopted by the Department of Health and organisations like Age UK, which produced a booklet based on the University's research called 'Don't mention the F-word'.

The guidelines have also been endorsed in global reports on falls prevention from the World Health Organisation and healthcare bodies in Canada and the Netherlands.

The research team continues to develop its online community of practitioners, clinicians and policymakers, which currently has 4,500 members from 30 countries sharing best practice via the internet.

Its 'fear of falling' questionnaire has now been translated into 30 languages and is widely used by hospitals and healthcare staff as a means of assessing older patients' needs.

In 2012, 54% of NHS Trusts had exercise instructors delivering falls prevention services based on the research conducted at Manchester.

“Our 'fear of falling' questionnaire has now been translated into 30 languages and is widely used by hospitals and healthcare staff.”

Chris Todd / Professor of Primary Care and Community Health