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Falls Cause Most Injury-Related Deaths in WI

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2010

Falls top suicides and automobile crashes as the leading cause of injury related death in Wisconsin—particularly among the elderly—and generate nearly $800 million in hospital costs each year in Wisconsin, according to a state-sponsored report.

The Burden of Falls in Wisconsin report examined statewide data from 2008 and found:

  •  87% of fall-related deaths, and 70% of falls requiring inpatient hospitalization involve people aged 65 or older.
  • About 70% of the costs for fall-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits are paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Of the $798 million in hospital charges stemming on falls in 2008, emergency department visits accounted for $160 million, and inpatient hospitalizations accounted for $638 million.
  • 55.2% of falls resulting in death occur in the home, and that 40% of those admitted to a nursing home had a fall in the month before admission.

"The first step in the prevention of falls is to understand the problem, which is in part achieved through surveillance efforts such as this document," says Wisconsin Secretary of Health Services Karen E. Timberlake, in a letter introducing the 32-page study. "This report shows the extent of the problem that falling creates for our citizens, both through loss of independence and costs to the healthcare system."

Timberlake says her agency is providing copies of the report to state legislators and healthcare policy makers to raise awareness of the problem and help them devise programs to reduce falls.

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