CDC Recognizes Importance of Occupational Therapy in Falls Prevention
By Stephanie Yamkovenko
One in every three adults older than 65 falls each year, but less than half talk to a health professional about the fall.1 Despite being a prevalent issue with older adults, falls are preventable, and occupational therapy plays a prominent role in helping to achieve this.
The CDC recognizes the importance of occupational therapy in falls prevention and began a relationship with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) in 2009. Since then, AOTA has participated in CDC national falls prevention meetings and developed a report for the CDC that examined Medicare payment for falls prevention services.
“We’re promoting the Centennial Vision goal of wide recognition, as well as power, by being at the table with the CDC,” says Christina Metzler, AOTA’s chief public affairs officer. “Our profile in the falls community has increased and we have enhanced our participation in the Falls Free Coalition with the National Council on Aging.”
Occupational therapy practitioners provide assessment, training, and support to help older adults remain injury free. Practitioners work with a client to minimize falls risks in their environments and enable participation in community-based falls prevention programs, which are becoming increasingly available in the United States.2
AOTA attended a CDC meeting in mid-September that focused on community-based programs that the CDC believes are effective, based on the evidence. One of the programs discussed in the meeting was developed by an occupational therapist in Australia, Lindy Clemson, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Sydney Australia. The program, Stepping On, has been adapted for use in the U.S. Read more about Stepping On and other community-based falls prevention programs in this OT Practice article.
“Having the CDC bring in leading occupational therapists to participate in their meetings has really increased the recognition of occupational therapy in falls prevention,” says Metzler.
Occupational therapy practitioners work in a variety of settings to address falls prevention in older adults such as outpatient clinics, acute care hospitals, rehabilitation centers, home health services and community centers such as Area Agencies on Aging. Working in a client’s home, occupational therapy practitioners can help prevent future falls by evaluating the client’s situation and environment to identify risks, and then use interventions to help the client prevent falls. They can also encourage activities to build strength and balance, promote safe habits while in the community, and help sustain these activities for long term prevention of falls.
“AOTA members can raise the profile of occupational therapy on a daily basis with their employers by making sure that falls prevention is an integral part of their occupational therapy approach where they are working,” says Metzler. “It doesn’t have to be a full fledged program; it can just be highlighting what you are able to do with your clients with falls prevention. Falls are preventable and occupational therapy is a critical component of alleviating this prevalent public health problem.”
Occupational therapy practitioners are participating in National Fall Prevention Awareness Day on September 23 either through falls coalitions or with their communities.
What are you doing to promote falls prevention in your community? Go to the OT Connections forum on Falls Prevention to share your plans and successes.
Resources on Falls Prevention:
Stephanie Yamkovenko is staff writer at AOTA.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Falls among older adults: An overview. Retrieved September 22, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html
2 Peterson, L. (2011, September 12). Reducing fall risk: A guide to community-based programs. OT Practice 16(16), 15–20.