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First Day of Fall, September 22, Focuses on Preventing Falls to Older Adults

WASHINGTON, DC - Congress issued another call to action September 22 urging government, citizens and healthcare professionals to do more to help prevent the increasing number of falls among people 65 years of age and older. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), as well as Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ralph Hall (R-TX), introduced resolutions in support of September 22 as National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.

The Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group, a growing broad-based coalition of 32 national nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the health and safety of older adults, applauds Senators Mikulski and Enzi and Representatives Pallone and Hall for their continued commitment and leadership to protect older adults from the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for those 65 and older.

"A fall to a family member or friend can be a life-altering experience," said Patricia Adkins, Chief Operating Officer of the Home Safety Council. "This resolution is another positive step in raising awareness about the potentially devastating impacts of falls, the ways falls can be prevented, and engaging our communities to take action to reduce the enormous cost to the healthcare system."

On April 23, 2008, the President signed the Safety of Seniors Act, Public Law 110-202, which develops public and professional education strategies to raise awareness about older adult falls, encourages research to identify at-risk populations, and supports demonstration projects aimed at preventing falls among older Americans. Passage of this legislation was also led by Senators Mikulski and Enzi and Representatives Pallone and Hall.

The Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group believes the next step to enhancing this legislation is increasing funding for CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control to implement the provisions of the Safety of Seniors Act.

"Clearly, the passage of this important legislation shows us that Congress intends to do more for our older adults," Adkins said. "The resolution responds to rising momentum calling for real solutions by our growing coalition and the more than 20 state organizations that have mobilized to help at the grassroots level."

Based on CDC data, nearly 16,000 people aged 65 and older die from injuries related to unintentional falls, 433,000 older adults are hospitalized, and nearly 1.8 million are treated in emergency departments. The total direct costs for falls are more than $19 billion each year. Most of these expenses are paid for by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services through Medicare. It is projected that direct treatment costs from older adult falls will escalate to $43.8 billion annually by 2020.

On September 22, 2008, S. Res. 674 was passed in the Senate creating National Falls Prevention Awareness Day and H. Res. was introduced in the House with the support of 26 Representatives, including Representative Tim Mahoney submitting a statement to the Congressional Record in support of the resolution.

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