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 80 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 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.
Clinical research has shown that when people exercise to strengthen their legs and core, their balance improves, and their risk of falls can reduce by up to 29%.
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 Community Group Strength and Balance will be approved. This ensures the classes are safe and effective. Approved class are reassessed on a six monthly basis to ensure they still meet the criteria.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Billing
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;
- 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?
- 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?
- 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 approved Community Strength and Balance classes.
The patient can expect:
- A phone call from Harbour Sport if they reside within the ADHB and WDHB areas within 3 working days to find an appropriate class in close proximity to where they live
- To attend a safe and effective class that has been assessed against an evidence-based criteria
- The instructor to adapt, modify and progress exercises within a class to suit their ability
- A cost to the class (generally between $5 to $10)
- A variety of classes dependent on the community
- To improve their strength and balance if they attend on a regular basis
- A fun and friendly environment
- To stay within the same class or progress to a more challenging class over time if they choose.
How to refer to Community Strength and Balance?
All health professionals are able to make referrals to the Community Strength and Balance programme.
There are two options to refer patients.
Primary and secondary care can refer via Care Connect E-Referals.
1. Complete a Falls Prevention eReferral form for Community Group Strength and Balance
2. Once referred, Harbour Sport will contact your patient within 3 to 4 working days and will be referred to suitable Community Strength and Balance approved classes close to where they live
3. The referred person will then choose which class they attend in their respective community.
Alternatively, please refer
- The patient will be contacted within 3-4 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.