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Prevent injury to Vermonters

Improve health for Vermont's older adults

All Vermonters are Healthy and Safe

All Vermonters are Healthy and Safe

Vermonters are healthy

Vermonters are healthy

Vermonters are healthy

Fall-related death rate per 100,000 adults age 65 and older

127.22015

Story Behind the Curve

Last Updated: November 2016

Author:

Injury Prevention Program Team, Vermont Department of Health


Over the time period between 2002 and 2014, the number and rate of fall-related deaths have increased. The 2014 Vermont death rate of 118.7 per 100,000 adults age 65 and older is significantly higher than that in 2002. Vermont’s elderly (over age 65) fall-related mortality rate is higher than the national rate. In 2007, Vermont’s fall-related death rate for this age group was 129.1 compared to 45.3 nationally.

There are no major population-based events that are recognized as influencing the data in this time frame however, Vermont’s ability to recognize and document fall-related deaths may have improved. Vermont’s data provides useful information on the targeting of both primary and secondary prevention activities.


Partners
  • Vermont Department of Health
  • Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL)
  • Department of Vermont Health Access including the Blueprint for Health and the Support and Services at Home (SASH)
  • Vermont Falls Free Coalition
  • Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)
  • Home Health Agencies
  • Hospitals
What Works

Risk of falls increases with age but falls should not be considered an inevitable part of the aging process. Because there are many reasons an individual might fall, and these can act synergistically, falls prevention must be multifactorial and comprehensive.

Traditionally, the evidence base supports programming that includes early assessment, exercise, medication management, and safety within environmental design. Often those individuals at risk of falling (in this instance, defined as those Vermonters age 65 and older) experience: a fear of falling, limiting mobility which affects strength and stability, and medication which may cause drowsiness or impair balance. There has been a wealth of research on elderly falls prevention interventions that has been incorporated into a variety of evidenced based programming and strategies. We are working to more fully incorporate these strategies into Vermont’s community services and statewide systems.

Studies show that a combination of behavior changes can significantly reduce falls among older adults. Experts recommend:

  • Participating in a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training, and flexibility components
  • Consulting with a health professional about getting a fall risk assessment
  • Having medications reviewed periodically
  • Getting eyes and ears checked annually
  • Making sure the home environment is safe and supportive
Strategy
  • The Vermont Department of Health received grant funding to run a state falls prevention program in 2014. The falls prevention program goals are to reduce falls related injury and deaths in older adults in Vermont.
  • Strategy
    • Coordinate with Falls Free Coalition and local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) on a statewide Falls Prevention Awareness Day media messaging.
    • Coordinate with Falls Free Coalition to enhance activities statewide to increase fall prevention programs in communities.
    • Assess number and type of falls prevention programs currently being offered throughout the state through a comprehensive program-directed survey.
    • Assess the numbers/types of stakeholders engaged in efforts to reduce falls among adults over age 60.
    • Deliver the evidence-based program FallScape and use the resulting data, along with EMS falls-related 911 calls data, to support pursuit of reimbursement and evaluate program efficacy.
    • Create a statewide, searchable database accessible to older adults, community organizations and providers to offer information on falls prevention programming and assessment.
    • Work with hospital service areas (HSAs) to establish systems for screening of falls risk and referral to appropriate services
    This work is funded in part by:
    • National Council on Aging and Administration on Community Living
    • Association of State and Territorial Health Organizations
    • Older American’s Act funding; DAIL provides oversight of the distribution to the Area Agencies on Aging and therefore collaborates with the local AAA’s on programming.
    • Blueprint reimbursement for providers, community health teams and SASH

Similar to statewide efforts, local partners are using data to drive local strategy. For regional data on injury indicators, check out our Public Health Data Explorer.

What We Do

The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) Falls Prevention Program helps older adults to improve their health, receive education and training, and find resources to prevent falls-related injuries and death. This program is housed within the Division of Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Injury Prevention. Through partnerships with community organizations, such as Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), Emergency Medical Service (EMS) agencies, and community hospitals and health care providers, VDH coordinates referrals for and trainings on evidenced-based falls prevention programs. VDH continues to build a multifactorial infrastructure focusing on screening and assessment, exercise and strength building, medication management and reconciliation, and home safety. Additionally, VDH is involved in Vermont’s state falls prevention coalition, Falls Free Vermont, which is a collaboration of key stakeholders and health care professionals committed to reducing preventable falls through building capacities related to networking, referral systems, and resources.

Who We Serve

Falls prevention programs are available to Vermont older adults who:

  • Are at risk for falling.
  • Have had previous falls.
  • Worry about falling.

Additionally, VDH serves community partners engaged in falls prevention work through offering resources, data, trainings, and facilitated discussions to staff.

How We Impact

Falls Prevention Screening and Assessment

Falls are preventable and not a normal part of aging. In the U.S., 1 in 4 older adults reported experiencing a fall and an older adult falls every second of every day throughout the country. While the risk of falls increases with age, less than half of older adults talk to their doctor about their fall. In Vermont, 1 in 3 adults ages 65 and older reported having a fall in the past year and falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state.

VDH promotes the use of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries (STEADI) toolkit, which was created to help patients and health care providers with simple, evidenced-based tools through effective education materials, screening and assessment tools, and interventions that prevent falls-related injuries and deaths. Through collaborative partnerships and coordinated activities, VDH is working to build a sustainable statewide falls prevention program that promotes healthy aging and mitigates costly injuries for both older Vermonters and health care systems.

Indications of Progress through Data Collection

VDH uses various databases and data sources to track progress of the state’s falls prevention program. Through review and analysis of data on falls-related injuries and deaths, as well as the number of individuals screened, assessed, and referred to falls prevention programs, VDH continually evaluates this program to ensure there is improvement in health outcomes. The falls prevention program consistently seeks feedback from community members, health care providers, and partnering organizations to continue building a robust statewide falls prevention program.

Why Is This Important?

This indicator is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 (the State Health Assessment) that documents the health status of Vermonters at the start of the decade and the population health indicators and goals that will guide the work of public health through 2020. Click here for more information.

Falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults. In fact, 1 in every 3 adults ages 65 and older fall each year. Some falls are minor, but others can result in serious injury, such as a broken hip or a head injury, as well as a loss of independence and mobility.

The population of Vermonters age 60 and older numbers 101,827 or about 1 in 6 Vermonters (Vermont Population Data). As the baby boomer generation ages, interest grows in living independently and staying active longer. An injury resulting from a fall, such as hip fracture or traumatic brain injury (TBI) can permanently disable or kill an otherwise healthy individual. Furthermore, the average cost of a hip fracture is $35,000 dollars for the hospital stay alone (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The use of EMS personnel to deliver interventions presents a novel opportunity to target individuals at risk who may not otherwise interact with the healthcare system, especially as many older adults are reluctant to discuss falls with providers or family.

Notes on Methodology

Data is updated as it becomes available and timing may vary by data source. For more information about this indicator, click here.

This indicator is age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population. In U.S. data, age adjustment is used for comparison of regions with varying age breakdowns. In order to remain consistent with the methods of comparison at a national level, some statistics in Vermont were age adjusted. In cases where age adjustment was noted as being part of the statistical analysis, the estimates were adjusted based on the proportional age breakdowns of the U.S. population in 2000. For more detailed information on age adjustment visit /www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/statnt/statnt20.pdf.

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