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The Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health, in collaboration with the University of North Carolina Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention was recently awarded $800,000 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Prevention Research Center program for a two-year Policies, Programs, and Partners for Fall Prevention (PPPFP) project.

The project addresses the urgent need to identify more effective public health strategies for reducing falls, fall-related injuries, and fall-related rates of emergency room visits among the growing population of seniors.

The principal investigators for the initiative are Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., Regents Professor at the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health and Tiffany E. Shubert, Ph.D., Research Scientist at the UNC Center for Aging and Health, based at the UNC School of Medicine.

“Building on our current evaluation of CDC’s State Fall Prevention Program, this new project should lead to greater understanding of the barriers and facilitators to widespread community adoption of evidence-based prevention measures,” said Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H. “The goal of PPPFP is to expand program reach to vulnerable older adults through new training structures that will enhance the fall prevention skills of existing health professionals.”

In addition to examining fall-related policies, a critical aspect of PPPFP is the evaluation of a training program for physical therapists to understand and implement evidence-based fall prevention and to integrate these efforts with state and national fall prevention policies.

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity to disseminate and link fall prevention efforts between public health, health care providers, and older adults creating a needed continuum of fall prevention,” said Dr. Shubert.

The project will also develop strategies and train community health workers in Texas and North Carolina to help raise awareness about fall prevention and refer older adults to evidence-based programs.

An important partner in this effort is the National Council on Aging’s Falls Free© Initiative, led by (Bonita) Lynn Beattie, PT, MPT. This large national initiative composed of 42 state coalitions works collaboratively to increase awareness, bring education and training to providers, and increase investment in effective community interventions.

“Every 15 seconds a senior is treated at an emergency room for a fall-related injury,” Beattie said. “Through effective risk management, falls are largely preventable, but it will take a community wide effort to effect change.”

It is noteworthy that the timing of this award is in advance of the 5th Annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day on Sept. 22.  This unique campus-community partnership will accelerate national efforts to identify and promote effective, integrated practices and supportive policies that can make a difference in the lives of millions of seniors and their family members.

The special initiative project is awarded competitively under the Prevention Research Center (PRC) program through Cooperative Agreement 5U48DP00192 and will also benefit from involvement of the CDC-PRC Healthy Aging Research Network.

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