8th Biennial Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Conference

Members of NeuRA’s Falls, Balance and Injury Research Centre (FBIRC) attended the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Conference in Hobart from 18 to 20 November. The conference aims to unite researchers, clinicians, health promotion practitioners, policy makers and consumers on their quest to improve the lives of older people and their families and friends across the spectrum of physical abilities and accommodating settings. The conference was filled with interesting talks by international and national speakers, among whom a fair share of NeuRA researchers.


Day one

The first day of the conference consisted of pre-conference workshops and a first keynote lecture. Dr Jasmine Menant (NeuRA), together with Daniela Meinrath, Associate Professor Mark Latt and Associate Professor Kim Delbaere (NeuRA), organised a workshop on dizziness in older people that was very well attended. In the afternoon, keynote speaker Professor Terry Haines, from Monash University, spoke about preventing falls in hospitals and aged care facilities and highlighted the need for strong evidence before clinical implementation.


Day two

The official opening of the conference was on day two, followed by day filled with stimulating talks. Keynote speaker Professor Sallie Lamb (University of Oxford) shared results from an updated review on multifactorial interventions. She shared that multifactorial fall prevention programs are especially effective at reducing fall rates in multiple fallers, but not per se in preventing someone from becoming a “faller”. She further spoke about large-scale implementation of interventions through so-called “megatrials” with over 9000 participants. Such studies suggest that scaling up reduced the fidelity of multifactorial interventions, making exercise interventions a cost-effective alternative. Subsequently, Associate Professor Kim Delbaere gave a keynote lecture on StandingTall, an engaging home-based exercise program using mobile technology for preventing falls. StandingTall has been designed with and for older people, to allow them to perform balance exercise in the comfort of their own home. It includes an individually-tailored exercise prescription to improve balance ability and reduce fall risk in older people; and behavioural change techniques to enhance exercise uptake and long-term adherence. Associate Professor Delbaere spoke about the progress of the study and revealed promising results with high adherence. NeuRA’s StandingTall team is currently recruiting participants for their ongoing studies, click here for more information.


Keynote speaker Associate Professor Delbaere presenting on StandingTall

In the sessions following the keynote lecture, Dr Yoshiro Okubo (NeuRA) presented on his reactive step training to improve responses to slips and trips in older people. His work in the NeuRA gait laboratory shows promising results with a 60 per cent reduction of falls and we’re excited for his future work with daily-life falls. Dr Kim van Schooten (NeuRA) presented on how concerns about falling affect daily-life activities in older men and women. She found that people with concerns about falling walk less, and that it affects men (who tend to be more active) more than women. Dr Annika Toots presented on her work on exercise in residential care to reduce falls in people living with dementia.



Keynote speaker Dr Sturnieks presenting on SureStep

At the end of the day Professor Vasi Naganathan presented on falls in older men, which are very similar in terms of risk factors and effective interventions to those in women. Associate Professor Anne-Marie Hill talked about functional decline in older people post-hospital discharge and interventions to remediate this decline, highlighting that more efficacy trials are needed. Finally, Dr Daina Sturnieks (NeuRA) presented her innovative research on training voluntary and reactive stepping to prevent falls. She spoke about perturbation training programs that are being assessed at the moment and introduced the smart±step program. The smart±step training system has been designed to enable older people to undertake training in their own home, by playing engaging and enjoyable computer games. These games have been designed to train important balance and cognitive functions, while also being fun. The study is still looking for volunteers, for more information click here.


Day three

The last day was again filled with interesting talks. Keynote speaker Dr Joe Verghese spoke about the importance of using gait impairments combined with cognitive impairment to identify people at high risk for falls and highlighted that people are not very accurate at rating their own fall risk. Associate Professor Anne Tiedeman spoke about combining physical activity promotion and fall prevention for healthy ageing. Professor Keith Hill presented the amazing fall prevention work in Asia and highlighted the need for increased world-wide collaboration and replication.


In the sessions after the keynote lectures, NeuRA was well represented. Dr Kim van Schooten showed that cognitive decline and low mood increase fall risk, independent from sensorimotor functions. Dr Esther Vance joined Lorraine Lovitt to share the amazing work that the NSW Fall Prevention Network has done over the past 25 year. Dr Morag Taylor spoke about the relation between white matter hyperintensities in the brain with falls in people with dementia. PhD student Paulo Pelicioni presented on the relation between motor and prefrontal activation and stepping. Dr Lara Harvey showed that people with cognitive decline are at increased risk for fall-related fractures. Dr Jasmine Menant spoke about relationship between dizziness burden and falls in middle-aged and older people. Dr Morag Taylor presented on a feasibility study of using iPads with StandingTall in older people with dementia. And finally, Erika Pliner spoke about risk factors for falls from ladders in older people.


Overall, it was an exciting conference with ample of opportunity to interact with people in the field of fall prevention research.


Several members of NeuRA’s FBIRC at the conference From left to right: Prof Jacqui Close, Dr Kim van Schooten, Dr Annika Toots, Dr Daina Sturnieks, Prof Steve Lord, PhD students Paulo Pelicioni and Erika Pliner, and Dr Yoshiro Okubo.


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