The ageing of the population is one of the major transformations being experienced in Australia, with falls a significant threat to safety, health and independence. There is now substantial evidence regarding effective interventions for preventing falls among older people living independently in the community. The aim of this project was to develop and apply a framework for epidemiological modelling of the population level impact of proven interventions on future fall rates, providing a powerful policy-setting tool for prevention. We used the Cochrane review to source current best efficacy evidence from randomised controlled trials which have provided evidence of minimising the incidence of falls among older people living in the community. Six interventions defined in that review as most promising for community dwelling older people were modelled. Additionally, one other intervention not in the Cochrane review, expedited cataract removal, was also modelled. Occupational therapy delivered home hazard assessment and modification for those with recent fall history, as modelled here, represents the best falls prevention investment. Cardiac pacing is a good falls prevention investment over the medium term, although is unlikely to have a major impact on population level hospital admission rates. The relative cost-effectiveness of psychotropic medication withdrawal appears high, although some implementation issues would need to be addressed and further costs included. Multi-disciplinary multi-factorial risk management represents good clinical practice for high risk individuals, but is not relatively cost-effective for widespread implementation. Tai chi programs may represent good value for falls prevention resources, if local circumstances allow the cost per participant to be substantially lower than modelled here. Predicted reductions in national fall-related hospital admission rates for people aged 65 years and over ranged from 0.4% to 4.6% for five of the six falls prevention strategies implemented over a one year period. These reductions, however, suggest that substantial investment in falls prevention will be required to have large effects on the fall-related hospitalisation rates. In addition, the costeffectiveness of a number of the modelled interventions could be improved by variations to the implementation processes such as measures to increase uptake, or decrease the cost per participant. The framework developed provides the potential for the research evidence base to better guide policy and practice with respect to reducing falls and future fall-related hospitalisation rates.
Objective: To model the population level impact of tai-chi on future rates of falls and fall-related injury in older people as a tool for policy development. Design: An epidemiological and economic model for estimating population-level effectiveness of tai-chi. Setting: Australia, 2009. Patients or subjects: Australian community-dwelling population aged 70+ years, ambulatory and without debilitating conditions or profound visual defects. Intervention: Group-based tai-chi, for 1 h twice weekly for 26 weeks, assuming no sustained effect beyond the intervention period. Main outcome measure: Total falls and fall-related hospitalisation prevented in 2009. Results: Population-wide tai-chi delivery would prevent an estimated 5440 falls and 109 fall-related hospitalisations, resulting in a 0.18% reduction in the fall related hospital admission rate for community-dwelling older people. The gross costs per fall and per fall-related hospital admission prevented were $ A4414 ((sic)3013) and $A220 712 ((sic)150 684), respectively. A total investment of $A24.01 million ((sic)16.39 million), equivalent to 4.2% of the cost of fall-related episodes of hospital care in 2003/4, would be required to provide tai-chi for 31 998 people and achieve this effect. Conclusions: Substantial investment in, and high population uptake of, tai-chi would be required to have a large effect on falls and fall-related hospitalisation rates. Although not accounted for in this study, investment in tai-chi is likely to be associated with additional significant health benefits beyond falls prevention. This approach could be applied to other interventions to assist selection of the most cost effective falls-prevention portfolio for Australia and other countries.