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‘Step WiseLee’ to offer assistance to prevent falls

By Staff | Sep 17, 2009

As part of a countywide initiative to prevent injuries or fatalities resulting from unintentional falls, advocates from “Step WiseLee” will host two events to educate the public on preventing falls.
Lee Memorial Health System and the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition will team up to host the events Tuesday, Sept. 22, which is National Falls Prevention Day. The Wellness Center in Cape Coral and Lee Memorial Hospital will both host events that day.
According to the coalition, Lee County has the highest rate of fall-related fatalities in the state. For every 100,000 people who fall in Lee County, 23 of them will die. Throughout Florida that amount is only 9.1.
A fall can cause various medical problems such as hip fractures or head trauma, as well as death. They can occur because of things as simple as tripping over a cord or as serious as falling down stairs.
Lee County had 144 fall-related deaths in 2007, according to the latest data that is available, but advocates hope they can change the statistics by focusing on prevention. Falls are now the leading cause of unintentional-injury deaths in Lee County.
“Falls are common, but avoidable,” said Dr. Lowell Gerson, chairperson of the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition. “This is a serious public health problem locally and more must be done.”
Gerson will be one of the guest speakers at the local events, where she will give a presentation on avoiding unintentional falls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the risk can be reduced by starting an exercise program, clearing one’s home of clutter, regularly checking vision and having health providers periodically review medications.
David Kainrad, with Lee County EMS and a board member of the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition, said the Step WiseLee campaign had been in the planning stages for over a year.
“Falls came to our attention, particularly the statistics in Lee County, that it led the state in the number of potential deaths due to falls,” he said. “That isn’t a statistic we should be proud of.”
The coalition brought in dozens of local professionals from different organizations such as the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida, Lee County Health Department, Lee County Public Safety, EMS and the Lee Memorial Health System to perfect the campaign.
Officials are not sure why Lee County leads the state in fall-related deaths. Kainrad said there are a number of factors that contribute to the phenomenon, the largest being age. A patient’s medication, prior medical conditions, home environment and balance issues also contribute to whether they are prone to fall.
“Education is the key,” he said. “Not only to those who are seniors, but those who are in their 60s or 50s, and educate them that you do cross over in that older adult phase and there are some issues.”
Advocates from Step WiseLee are also urging local doctors to take some time with older patients to educate them on fall prevention.
Since balance is also a major factor in fall prevention, Lee Memorial Health System is offering free balance screenings from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday at the Balance Clinic inside the Lee Center for Rehabilitation and Wellness, 2070 Carrell Road, Suite A, Fort Myers.
The clinic provides residents with a chance to undergo a comprehensive evaluation. A program can be created for them that deals with balance issues or dizziness.
Pre-registration is required for the free balance sessions because the clinic will only serve the first 50 people who show up.
For information on the free balance screens, call 418-2000.