The 8th biennial Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Conference was held in Hobart, Tasmania from 18th – 20th November 2018. The conference, held by the Australian New Zealand Falls Prevention Society, was a unique opportunity for those researching and working in the area of falls and falls prevention. The hugely diverse audience, ranging from university researchers, clinicians working with the community, policy makers and health promotion practitioners, ensured the presentations were extremely varied.
Session topics ranged from falls in the community, vision impairment, falls in Asia, understanding brain mechanisms and clinical and hospital settings. Falls research was a hot topic, with many international and leading national falls researchers sharing their works, findings and lessons for the future.
The advancement of technology to help aid falls prevention was another key theme which ran through the conference, with many keynote speakers discussing the role of technology in preventing falls in both a clinical and home setting. Using technology as a portable exercise tool was discussed in numerous presentations, with a focus on the ability for community members to complete exercises in their own homes. Tailored smartphone apps, take home exercise DVDs, and mobile weekly fact sheets all had varying results, however provided some key lessons for future work in this space. Major developments in clinical technology included an online program for GP’s. The iSOLVE (Integrated Solutions for Sustainable Fall Prevention) decision tool was incorporated into GP clinical software, to assist with falls management in older patients.
Injury Matters staff Sonya and Chloe both attended and presented at the conference, on training for non-allied health professionals and the value of developing a balance exercise video for older adults. Training non-allied health professionals was found to improve their awareness and confidence in delivering evidence-informed falls prevention exercise strategies in older adults. Providing a workshop, resources and ongoing support enabled them to build falls prevention strategies into their practice.
A falls prevention exercise video for older adults to use in their own home was created to increase awareness of the importance of balance and enable community members to complete safe balance exercises independently. However, upon evaluation, it was found that whilst digital education can increase awareness of falls prevention strategies, strategies to overcome barriers to uptake should be considered in the developmental stage.
Running over three days, the conference was a fantastic networking and research-sharing opportunity for all those working in the field and provided a chance for communication between different programs, organisations, states and countries.