The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MDPHHS) recently unveiled their new Stepping On program, a public health initiative aimed at informing the public about fall risks and reducing the number of fall-related injuries and deaths in Montana. After completing the Stepping On the program, half of the participants reduced their falling rates by half.
The MDPHHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report several statistics the public should know concerning falls.
These statistics inspired the creation of the MDPHHS Stepping On the program, a multi-level course aimed at addressing individual fall risks through various courses.
There are many facilities throughout Montana that offer the Stepping On program. Participants start with an introductory session and information gathering to assess individual fall risk. Then, course instructors offer strength and balance training and emphasize the use of walking aids. The course also helps participants address falling risks at home and in the community, discusses medication management, and the importance of maintaining overall health, nutrition, and healthy sleeping habits.
The later stages of the Stepping On program help participants learn how to navigate uneven surfaces, steps, and stairs and manage inclement weather. The course also touches on hip protectors, fall prevention strategies, and reinforcement of all course information at a three-month “reunion” session following completion of the main course.
During the first three years of the program, from 2010 to 2013, about 68% of participants completed at least five of the seven courses offered. 28% of participants reported falling one or more times within the three months prior to starting the course, and 20% reported falling one or more times in the three months leading up to the three-month reunion class. The class also reported a 50% decrease in the percent of participants who suffered falls between course completion and the reunion class compared to falls that occurred during the three months prior to the course.
Older adults face an inherently higher risk of suffering falling injuries. As we age, our bodies become less resilient to injury and illness. Not only are older adults more susceptible to injuries, they also generally sustain more severe injuries than younger people and require more time to heal. Lower body weakness, motor disability, vitamin deficiency, and neurological issues may all contribute to an older person’s fall risk. Environmental factors like clutter and slippery floors may also cause falling injuries. Many older adults also require prescription medications that may entail side effects that increase fall risks, such as disorientation, drowsiness, or loss of balance and coordination.
Falls can easily lead to bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and internal organ damage. Since older adults face a naturally higher risk of suffering such injuries from falls, it is vital for them to take appropriate precautions and take their individual risk factors into account. The Stepping On program can be a valuable learning tool for any older adult who wishes to reduce his or her personal fall risk.