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Baltimore to use grant to assess ways to keep seniors from falling

The Baltimore City Health Department has won a $200,000 one-year planning grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop a method of using data to prevent falls, a common and dangerous problem for seniors.

A program using an array of clinical, environmental and social service data from hospitals, civic associations, academic institutions and others could be used to complement other efforts already underway to address the problem.

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"Sharing data across sectors narrows knowledge gaps, increases collaboration and ultimately improves community health," said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City health commissioner, in a statement. "In order for our community to see better health outcomes, we need more comprehensive data – including data that sheds light on the social determinants beyond clinical health care that influence our health."

Falls the leading cause of unintentional injury and death among seniors, affecting a third of people 65 and older a year. About 30 percent who fall have a moderate or severe injury such as cuts, fractures and traumatic brain injuries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies show that those who fall have a 50 percent chance of falling again if circumstances aren't changed.

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Several studies, including some at Johns Hopkins University, have looked at drugs, technology and individualized plans to help doctors keep seniors safe. The grant will help city health officials determine how to quickly gather information on patients directly from the hospitals and how to integrate it into existing research and other data about transportation, housing, education and social services that may contribute to fall risk.

The results could inform new programs, said city officials, whose aim is to reduce the rate of falls leading to an emergency department visit or hospitalization by a third over three years.

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