Community Strength and Balance – Health Professionals

Falls are the most common and costly cause of injury in people 65 years and over.  Current data shows around 30% of people over the age of 65 years fall at least once per year.  For 75 years and over this increases to 60%.  The older adult population representing the fastest-growing age demographic in New Zealand and unless we do something to support people to remain physically active and living well in their own homes, it will have a significant impact on the health system and society as a whole.

The health sector is working together to improve the effectiveness of injury prevention and rehabilitation for older people so they can live stronger for longer in their communities.  Below are the key areas being established across New Zealand:

  • Community Group Strength and Balance programmes
  • In-home Strength and Balance programmes
  • Fracture Liaison Services (FLS) to identify and treat those at risk of osteoporosis
  • Service integration across primary and secondary care (including supported hospital discharge), and rehabilitation closer to home.

The five high level outcomes for the Live Stronger for Longer initiative are:

  1. Keeping independent and well at home
  2. Fewer fall injuries
  3. Fewer serious harm falls and fractures
  4. Improved recovery (in hospital and at home)
  5. Integrated falls and fracture care across the system

Photo courtesy of Amanda Billing

Clinical research has shown that when people exercise to strengthen their legs and core, their balance improves, and their risk of falls reduces by almost a third.

Community Group Strength and Balance approved programmes or classes will support older adults to build their core muscles and leg strength and improve their balance.  Only classes that meet the nine evidence-based criteria for the Community Group Strength and Balance will be approved.  This ensures the classes are safe and effective.  Approved class are monitored on a six monthly basis to ensure they still meet the criteria.

    Who is the programme targeted at?  All people 65 years and over will benefit from attending approved community classes or programmes and prevention is fundamental.

    To identify whether people are at risk of a fall, the Health Quality & Safety Commission New Zealand has developed the below questions which covers key points when screening for risk of falling;

    1. If a person has fallen before, this is a sign an older person will fall again. A person who falls often is an important indicator.

    ASK: Have you slipped, tripped or fallen in the last year?

    1. If a person has a problem with their balance or their lower limbs are weak, this might increase the risk of them falling.

    ASK: Can you get out of a chair without using your hands?

    1. If a person fears they will fall, this can cause them to needlessly limit their activity and lose function, and so diminish their overall quality of life.

    ASK: Have you stopped doing some activities because you’re afraid you might lose your balance? Do you worry about falling?

    Consider the efficacy of referring patients to the Community Strength and Balance programme. 

      Is there a cost to attending an approved class?

      The approved exercise provider sets the cost of the class.  The costs of classes vary and will depend on the location and type of activity.

      The aim is to ensure all Community Group Strength and Balance programmes are:

      • available and accessible across the relevant DHB district to people aged 65 and older who are at risk of falling (or have a history of falling)
      • effective at reducing falls, fractures and hip fractures
      • affordable for all socio-economic groups

      What is the referral pathway? 

      All health professionals are able to make referrals to the Community Strength and Balance programme.

      In the near future primary care and secondary care health professionals will be able to make a referral through E-referrals. 

      In the interim, please refer vai the form following the ‘Refer a Patient’ button below

      • The patient will be contacted within 2-3 working days and referred to a suitable Community Strength and Balance approved class close to where they live.
      • The referred person will then choose which class they attend in their respective community.
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