Engaging Students in Community-Based Health Promotion Programs to Reduce Falls in Older Adults
Innovative strategies to positively impact the populationÕs health are needed to mitigate negative trends in health outcomes, especially in the realm of older adults in which falls are a costly health condition that results in increased morbidity and mortality.1,2,3 As physical therapists can influence population health students need to be introduced to this role and provided with opportunities to see its importance within physical therapist practice.4 Thus, the purpose of this report is to describe an innovative project that provided a student-led evidence-based falls prevention program (EBFPP) to older adults.
A graduate course was developed in which students were trained as a coach for the EBFPP, A Matter of Balance (AMOB). Through an academic-community partnership, students were placed in local senior centers to deliver the program to older adults. Given the constraints of the structured DPT curriculum, students were given the opportunity to participate in the experiential learning component of the course while being enrolled in a core course, Physical Therapy and the Older Adult. Seven students from nursing, health education, and health sciences and three physical therapist students led the 8-week program. In order to capture the efficacy of having students deliver an evidence-based health promotion program, older adult participants completed a standardized survey for EBFPP prior to and upon completion of the program. The survey measures falls efficacy, management and control, and is used nationwide for assessing the AMOB program.
28 older adults partook in the student-led AMOB programs. Nationally, data on participants who completed AMOB programs includes over 10,000 subjects. The demographics in terms of good to excellent health status (96%, 84%), less than 3 falls since the program began (11%, 15%), and being a little to a lot fearful of falling (39%, 38%) were similar between the participants in the student led program and national data, respectively. Program outcome related to reduction in fear of falling (86%, 89%), increasing physical activity (100%, 97%), planning to continue exercising (100%, 99%), and feeling more satisfied with life (100%, 97%) were also similar between the student-led program and national data, respectively.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
Students appear to lead AMOB programs that deliver similar outcomes as community based lay leaders. Students and older adults also benefit from intergenerational interaction to minimize ageism biases.5 Providing EBFPP within the community as a part of a curriculum facilitates collaborative learning opportunities and interpersonal communication skills while providing critical community-based health promotion programs. By offering DPT studentsÕ opportunities to learn about population health and evidence-based health promotion strategies in a core course, and experience interacting with older adults to reduce falls risk in their local community, students are more likely to be empathetic clinicians who are better prepared to influence the health of populations, not just individual clients.