October 2008 Archives

$340,000 grant may lead to falls prevention program used as a model.

FallsImage.jpgArea health care professionals and students are helping to reduce the risk of falls for Wilbur Brewer resident of Pioneer Home in Fergus Falls. Pictured from left: Todd Johnson, Lake Region Healthcare Director of Clinical Pharmacy; Eric Christianson, UMD Pharmacy Student; Brewer; Jason Eggers, U of M Medical Student; and Marie Braaten, Fergus Falls Medical Group Geriatric Nurse Practitioner.


Among the elderly, a fall often causes a major medical crisis that affects both the patient's health and quality of life. In fact, falls are the main cause of accidents in people over the age of 65, as well as the No. 1 cause of serious injury and death.

In many cases, these falls can be prevented, sparing the elderly and their families from both trauma and expense. This is the focus of a $340,000 grant that will fund a year-long effort by http://www.lrhc.org/, and five healthcare partners to develop and implement an intervention program to help prevent falls and to assist health care professionals in reducing the risks of falls by the elderly throughout Otter Tail County. Central MN AHEC is one of the regional partners.

The goal ultimately is to create a falls prevention program that could be used as a model in other counties throughout Minnesota.

"We often think the leading cause of death is heart disease, but morbidity is more related to falls. Of the elderly who fall and sustain a hip fracture, half are never able to live independently again," said Diane Thorson, director of the Otter Tail County Public Health Department. "We try to avoid them having falls in the first place."

An existing falls prevention program opened the door to the $340,000 Rural Health and Safety Education Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to Dr. Todd Johnson, director of clinical pharmacy at Lake Region Healthcare. That program, called the Inter-professional Falls Prevention & Education Program, has been in existence for almost two years and was funded by a grant from MN AHEC in the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota, where Johnson is also an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy.

He oversees this program, which links medical professionals (often Otter Tail County public health nurses) and health care students in pharmacy, medicine, nursing, physical therapy and other disciplines to create assessment teams. These teams visit elderly patients to assess the risk of falls in their homes and make suggestions to lower the risks. Referrals to the teams typically come from physicians, family members or public health or home care staff.

The team's recommendations for each patient are presented to a Falls Committee and also shared with each patient, along with his or her family members and primary health care provider.

Visit the MN AHEC website for more information on similar community-based interprofessional education and practice projects supported by MN AHEC regions.

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