ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE PASSES PALLONE BILL TO PREVENT ELDERLY FALLS
The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved legislation today introduced by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) that would address the growing problem of falls and fall-related injuries among elderly adults. Today's action comes two days after the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, of which Pallone is the Chairman, approved the same bill.
Falls among senior citizens represent a serious health risk for millions of older Americans. They represent the leading cause of injury deaths and the most common cause of injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in older adults.
The New Jersey congressman said The Safety of Seniors Act of 2008 is targeted at reducing these falls by creating prevention programs around the nation to educate seniors on ways to decrease the likelihood of a fall.
"Falls among the elderly are clearly an issue that affects and potentially imperils us all," Pallone said. "In fact, they are so commonplace that one in three Americans over the age of 65 experiences a debilitating fall every year.
"Effective demonstration tests, comprehensive public information and education campaigns can help reduce and mitigate these avoidable and frequently disabling injuries," Pallone continued. "This bill would launch a comprehensive preventative care program to reduce the number and severity of falls to the elderly. I commend my colleagues for strongly supporting this legislation this week, and look forward to moving this legislation to the full House where I am confident it will continue to garner strong bipartisan support."
Pallone's legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the following directives to reduce falls and prevent repeat falls among older adults:
* Improve the identification of seniors who have a high risk of falling and improve data collection to identify fall risk and protective factors; implement the most effective fall prevention and medication management interventions; assess the risk of falls occurring in various settings; and improve the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of elderly fall victims;
* Oversee and support national education campaigns focused on reducing and preventing falls among older adults and on educating health professionals about fall risk, assessment and prevention;
* Award grants for local and state education campaigns;
* Conduct research concerning approaches to reduce falls among high-risk adults living in long-term care facilities and strategies for in-home modifications;
* Evaluate the effectiveness of community programs; and
* Oversee and support demonstration projects designed to reduce the risk of falls in frail older adults, emphasizing projects that foster collaboration between healthcare providers and the aging services network or residential and institutional settings.
The legislation also requires HHS to report to Congress on the effects of falls on healthcare costs, the potential for reducing falls, and the most effective strategies for reducing associated healthcare costs.
Nationally, 42 percent of all nursing home admissions take place as a direct result of one or more injurious geriatric falls. It is estimated that in the State of New Jersey alone, more than 20,000 elderly residents are living in nursing homes as a result of geriatric falls.
With successful passage at both the committee and subcommittee, Pallone's legislation now must go to the House floor for a vote of the full U.S. House of Representatives.