Federal Falls Programs Are Failing Seniors With Disabilities, Should Share More Data –

Federal programs intended to help prevent falls and related injuries are not reaching a large subset of older adults who could benefit, according to a new Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.

Disabled adults aged 45 to 59 reported fall injuries at higher rates than those aged 60 and over, the independent agency found. In 2020, 42% of adults in this group fell, as did 15% without disabilities. Among adults aged 60 and over, these rates for people with and without disabilities were 40% and 18%, respectively.

Despite these apparent similarities in risk for falls, falls data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not include older people with disabilities under age 60, GAO investigators said in the report.

New data needed

This limits who gets help, they said. Nine federal programs related to falls prevention and accessibility currently serve seniors or adults with disabilities. Targeting a broader group of older adults at risk for falls and improving information sharing between programs can help prevent even more falls and their costly consequences for patients and healthcare systems, the GAO said. To do that, the CDC should start researching and reporting broader data on the falls, he recommended.

Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury death among older adults, resulting in billions of dollars in health care costs, he noted.

“Without expanding the scope of its analysis of falls data, the CDC will continue to miss opportunities to better understand populations at risk for falls and inform future programmatic efforts for these populations,” he said. “Such efforts can also help ensure these groups receive needed services and reduce unintentional injuries across all age groups, which could be particularly relevant to meeting the CDC’s healthy people goals.”

Information shared

The GAO also suggested that the Administration on Community Living (ACL) support and add information sharing among federal falls prevention programs and within its network of people with disabilities.

All four key organizations overseeing these falls prevention programs have endorsed the recommendations, the GAO noted. They include the ACL, CDC, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Veterans Affairs.

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