The British Geriatrics Society has recently announced a joint commitment, along with 16 other European organisations, to promote active ageing through the prevention of falls.
This has culminated in a campaign that is being dubbed ‘Stay Strong, Stay Steady’.
Led by the ProFouND network, based at the University of Manchester, the campaign has been timed in order to mesh with the UN’s International Day of Older Persons.
The 17-member action plan, developed in the framework of the three-year EC-funded ProFouND project, aims to:
• Increase the visibility of fall-related injuries amongst older people.
• Share good practice in promoting active lifestyles and falls prevention, and advocate for long term EU, national, regional and local level facilitated community programmes in these areas.
• Enhance the quality of data on fall-related injuries, to make comparison and evaluation easier across different countries and regions.
• Support national member organisations in integrating appropriate education and training modules for professional development and vocational training.
• To help professionals working with older people across health, social care, urban design, public transportation, fitness and other areas to understand and cover falls prevention in their work.
• Expand and further develop Fall Awareness Campaigns at national and European level.
Organisations including the British Geriatrics Society have compiled and underlined important evidence related to falls, which indicates that they should no longer be considered an inevitable part of ageing.
The joint action plan aims to increase healthy life by two years for older people in Europe by 2020, as a result of reducing the number of preventable falls that elderly people experience.
Speaking on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society, Professor Adam Gordon outlined the value of this initiative.
“We now know of a range of interventions proven to reduce the risk of falls, ranging from specific types of exercise, physiotherapy, adaptations to living environments and changes to lifestyle, care practices and medications. The problem is that we don’t always deliver these to people who are most at risk of falls. The ProFouND initiative challenges us as a society to be more ambitious about making sure those at risk of falls get the evidence-based care that they need. This is a very positive step forward,” Gordon commented.
Dr Emma Stanmore, from The University of Manchester, indicated that people from all backgrounds have a role to play in raising awareness of this issue.
“Everyone can help to reduce this preventable and serious problem and the first step is to break the myth that falls are unavoidable. With some simple methods such as helping more older people to undertake regular strength and balance exercises, and safety checking their homes, over a million falls could be prevented each year,” Stanmore stated.
Falls are one of the major health threats in older age, more common than both strokes and heart attacks.
Yet despite the serious consequences involved, the risks of preventable falls are often overlooked.
One-third of people over 65 who live outside of care will fall each year; this increases to 50 per cent above the age of 80.
NHS staff, patients and carers are being encouraged to participate in a week of events intended to raise awareness of the importance of healthy living.
Self Care Week will be held between 16th and 22nd November, and staff across the NHS are urged to help raise awareness of the initiative.
The theme for the week is ‘Self Care for Life’, and a series of events running over the seven-day period will examine and help people understand what they can do to better look after their own health.
Caring for families will also be a critical theme of the week, and there is a general tone of healthy living intended as part of the initiative.
This national campaign is being implemented by the Self Care Forum.
It is intended by the forum for people-facing organisations – such as GP surgeries, CCGs, pharmacies, dentists, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector – to utilise the opportunity provided by the week in order to improve levels of health literacy within the United Kingdom.
Considering the date of the self-care week, with winter approaching, there will also be an emphasis on reminding the public to ensure that the medicine cabinet is well-stocked ahead of this challenging period of the year.
Speaking about this aspect of the event, Dr Pete Smith, a GP and co-chair of the Forum, stated: “By supporting people to help themselves, we can not only improve quality of life for individuals but also use NHS services even more effectively, particularly with winter approaching when we all know our A&E services and GPs face huge demands.”
Self Care Week will also teach members of the public how to solicit appropriate help and assistance on symptoms and illnesses from pharmacists.
More serious conditions will also be a focus of the campaign. Information will be disseminated on how people can prevent deadly, but avoidable, conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and COPD.
It will also be emphasised that information and advice is readily available from pharmacists in order to deal with a wide variety of lifestyle issues.
Stopping smoking, fighting obesity, and choosing healthy options in order to prevent illness in the first place, while promoting mental well-being, will all be focuses of the week.
Further information will be provided by NHS Choices.
The aforementioned Dr. Smith suggested that Self Care Week could play a significant role in improving the nation’s health.
“Achieving Self Care for Life will be the focus for the conference this year and our objective is to listen to service users about what they need to help them self care, present practical ways in which self care can be embedded into pathways and to identify what support front line staff need at the national and local level to enable this to happen.”
And Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s National Medical Director for Long Term Conditions, asserted that the message of the campaign is a critical one for the nation.
“Self Care for Life helps raise awareness with people about how they can safely treat minor ailments such as colds or fever, as well as how they can also live healthily and prevent avoidable but more serious problems with long terms conditions such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
“Helping people to help themselves is a two-way partnership between individuals and the NHS to provide information, tools, support and care to allow people to stay well and use health services appropriately.”
The Self Care Forum has been running its annual awareness campaign since 2011, with an ethos of embedding self-care into everybody’s everyday life.