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Elder Falls Bill Passes Congress, Heads to President

Safety of Seniors Act Will Expand Research, Programs for #1 Cause of Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries for 65+ Americans

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A broad-based coalition of nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the safety and health of older adults applauds today's House passage of S. 845, the Safety of Seniors (SOS) Act, clearing it for the President. This bill comes at a critical point: each year, one in three older Americans (65 and older) falls and about 30% of those falls require medical treatment that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), costs more than $19 billion.

Introduced earlier this year by Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in the Senate and Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ralph Hall (R-TX) in the House, this bi-partisan legislation will develop effective public and professional education strategies to raise awareness about elder falls, encourage research to identify at-risk populations, and support demonstration projects aimed at preventing falls among older Americans.

"This bill begins to address the gaps in our efforts to understand and remedy the growing issue of elder falls and its consequences," said William O'Connell, Executive Director of Government Affairs at the National Safety Council (NSC). "The Coalition members thank Senators Enzi and Mikulski and Representatives Pallone and Hall for their exemplary leadership and efforts to keep thousands of older Americans safe from fall-related injuries."

The Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group, led by the National Council on Aging, the National Safety Council, the Home Safety Council, AARP, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the American Physical Therapy Association, worked closely with the offices of Senators Enzi and Mikulski and Representatives Pallone and Hall during the last months to ensure the effectiveness of the legislation.

James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging (NCOA), welcomes the bill's support of demonstration projects, adding that "many pilot projects, including models developed by the NCOA, continue to demonstrate cost-effective interventions and methods to decrease falls among older Americans."

Additional Funding Needed

According to Patricia Adkins, Chief Operating Officer of the Home Safety Council, the passage of the Safety of Seniors Act of 2007 is an important first step that should be followed by appropriating additional funding for the CDC's falls prevention budget.

Based on CDC figures, more than $19 billion annually is spent on treating the elderly for the adverse effects of falls: $12 billion for hospitalization, $4 billion for emergency department visits, and $3 billion for outpatient care. 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 elder falls will escalate to $43.8 billion annually by 2020.

"If we are to make a meaningful difference for older adults, we must communicate to Congress and the White House that more resources are needed to adopt programs that are working," said Adkins, "Trying to solve a $19 billion problem with a $1 million budget does not make sense. Our older Americans deserve better."

Earlier this year, the Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group and 25 other organizations called on Congress to add $20.7 million in Fiscal Year 2009 for the CDC to address the growing, large-scale problem of falls among older Americans.

"Among the greatest financial challenges facing the U.S. Government, its citizens and their employers is stemming the rising cost of healthcare services," said AARP Senior Vice President David Sloane. "Our 31 organizations, representing millions of older Americans, want to ensure sufficient funding for the CDC so that significant progress can be made to reduce the frequency and severity of falls among older Americans."

SOURCE Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group
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