Fall Risk Screenings

UWM Center for Aging and Translational Research Scientists Embark Upon Community Connections to Administer Fall Risk Screenings

CommunityFallRiskNational statistics state that one in three older adults fall each year, and that falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries, including hip fractures and head traumas. In 2010, the direct medical costs of fall related injuries surpassed $30 billion.

Falls represent a major public health problem, but the good news is that they could be prevented.

In a coordinated effort with Interfaith, UWM Center for Aging and Translational Research (CATR) Scientists recently embarked upon conducting fall risk screenings in the community. Faculty and students from the Department of Kinesiology have started to offer screenings at local senior centers throughout Milwaukee County. Screenings consist of a health history, height, weight, current physical activity behavior, and a choice step response time test (see picture).

Assistant Professor Kevin Keenan, a Center Scientist involved in the project, stated, “As we age physiological components of balance control deteriorate which increases the risk for falling. Avoiding a fall requires cognitive processing to correct stepping responses. Therefore, tests to screen cognitive responses to initiating a stepping response can be used as an effective screening tool for fall risk. In other words, the faster you can respond to a stepping task, the better you are, and are therefore at a lower risk for falling.”

The fall risk screenings were part of a larger awareness effort in community senior centers. Seniors were immediately given screening results, and those who tested at a low score and were at a higher risk for falling were connected with community programs to improve physical functioning through fitness center referrals and connections to community programs for chronic disease self- management.

CATR Interim Director Scott Strath stated, “This is an excellent example of partnering with the community to translate knowledge in an effort to improve senior health. I am excited to see such work expand to help alleviate fall risk for seniors in Milwaukee County and beyond.”