Large-scale study of older people finds no reduction in fractures from falls prevention programmes
Two ‘screen and treat’ programmes designed to prevent older people falling did not reduce fractures, a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) found.
As part of the largest clinical trial of its kind in the UK, researchers from the University of Warwick and University of Exeter looked at two approaches to preventing falls in older people.
Their study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at two programmes both widely used in the health service:
A total of 9,803 people aged over 70 took part in the study (the eldest was 101). People living in the community (not care homes) were screened for falls risk.
Those at higher risk were given a falls prevention advice booklet then randomly assigned to the MFFP programme, the six-month exercise programme or no further intervention.
The researchers then used data from NHS Digital, plus general practice records and reports from the participants, to determine how many times they attended hospital with fractures within 18 months.
Lead author Professor Sallie Lamb of the University of Exeter said: “We need to think about the broader causes of fractures and also understand more about what happens to cause falls.”
"Whilst this is a disappointing result, it shows that we must continue to invest in research and development to reduce fractures in older people." Professor Sallie Lamb, University of Exeter
Co-author Professor Julie Bruce, from Warwick Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Warwick, said: “We saw benefits to the general health of people doing exercise and a short-term reduction in the number of falls after exercise.
“People completing the six-month exercise programme became stronger and their balance improved. But that did not translate into a reduction in fractures in the long term.
“The take home message is that we would encourage older people to do physical activity and keep mobile because of the health benefits.”
The trial was funded by the NIHR’s Health Technology Assessment Programme.