Source: Keall MD, et al. Lancet 2015;
385:231-38

Falls in the home setting are a commonplace source of serious injury. In the recent past, most studies to address falls have addressed children, disabled persons, or the elderly. There is little information on more general populations, or whether a standardized set of environmental modifications — not designed to address any specific disability — would reduce falls and their consequences.

Keall et al studied households (n = 842) in New Zealand, including persons of all ages. Subjects were identified as holders of what is called a “community services card,” which indicates that the person is low income, unemployed, a student, older than age 65 years, or receives governmental health benefits related to illness.

Half of the homes in the study received no intervention. The other half received home modifications that included handrails for steps and stairs (inside and out), repairs to window catches, tub and toilet grab-rails, good-quality outside lighting, high-visibility and slip-resistant edging for outside steps, securing of carpet edges, non-slip bathmats, slip-resistant resurfacing for decks/patios, and a pamphlet on home safety. All modifications were provided free of charge by a qualified builder.

Compared to non-intervention homes (control) over the 3-year period of observation, home modification reduced falls by 26% per year and all injuries by 39% per year (both statistically significant).

The average cost of the intervention was $564 New Zealand dollars, which, by current currency conversion charts, is $423 U.S. dollars.