Vitamin D project helps prevent falls and saves health costs

8 Aug 2013 | Reducing Harm from Falls

Press release from Hon Jo Goodhew

Associate Minister of Health Jo Goodhew says MidCentral District Health Board's (DHB’s) vitamin D project is a good example of how a simple intervention can improve lives and save health dollars.

In 2010 the DHB, in partnership with ACC, began encouraging health professionals to prescribe vitamin D to residents in aged care facilities. Between March 2010 and June 2012 the uptake of vitamin D by aged care residents increased from 15 to 74 per cent.

“Comparisons from before and after the start of the project show a 32 per cent reduction in aged residential care residents going to the emergency department with falls-related fractures, and a 41 per cent reduction in their hospital admissions due to these fractures.” Mrs Goodhew said.

“The benefits of preventing falls in older people cannot be overstated. Preventing falls enables older people to maintain their independence and confidence.

“Of older people who suffer a hip fracture, nearly 20 per cent will die within a year. Almost half will require long-term care and half will require help at home. Half of those who walked without help before fracturing a hip will be unable to walk without assistance in the year following the fracture.”

The vitamin D project is also estimated to have saved MidCentral DHB more than $540,000 because of fewer people coming to the emergency department and reduced admissions to hospital. Further savings are also likely because of reduced need for clinical support, hospital pharmacy services, and physiotherapy and rehabilitation services.

International evidence shows that taking vitamin D significantly reduces older adults’ risk of falling.

“We know older people are less likely to fall and injure themselves if they keep their muscles and bones in good condition.

Vitamin D has been shown to increase the number and size of type II muscle fibres, which play an important role in balance and mobility. Vitamin D also helps maintain bone strength,” MidCentral DHB pharmacy advisor Andrew Orange says.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission’s national patient safety campaign Open for better care is currently focusing on falls prevention. For more information about the Open campaign, go to www.open.hqsc.govt.nz.

Last updated 08/08/2013