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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued its updated recommendation on falls prevention for older adults, once again confirming that effective exercise for preventing falls in older adults includes physical therapist-led interventions.  

The previous version of the recommendation was issued in 2018, and the only difference in recommendations is that the older document included one against vitamin D supplements to prevent falls, which is now subject to review in a separate recommendation.

For community-dwelling adults 65 and older who are at increased risk for falls, exercise interventions to prevent falls receive a B grade in the guidance, which means the task force recommends the service.

"Effective exercise interventions include supervised individual physical therapy and group exercise classes, although most studies reviewed by the USPSTF included group exercise," the final statement says. (For an exploration of PT-led group sessions, check out APTA Magazine's June cover story, "Improving Access and Adherence Through Group Classes.")

As in the previous version of the report, multifactorial interventions — or those that are customized to each patient and could include a variety of treatments — received a C grade. A C grade means that the task force recommends selectively offering the service based on professional assessment and individual patient preferences. The studies considered by the task force included interventions led by PTs, nurses, clinicians, occupational therapists, and other providers.

APTA continues to promote the unique role that physical therapists can play in the screening, assessment, and prevention of falls, and advocates for policy changes to ensure more funding for falls prevention services led by PTs.

"Physical therapists are essential partners in falls prevention interventions," says Jeanine Kolman, PT, DPT, APTA practice specialist. "PTs should be at the center of evidence-based falls-prevention strategies and can customize treatment plans to each individual based on their needs and goals. "

"The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States," a landmark APTA report published last year, found that choosing physical therapy to prevent falls over no intervention results in an average net benefit of $2,144 per episode of care. Additionally, the focus of this year's National Physical Therapy Month in October will be on falls prevention. More information on APTA’s consumer outreach efforts for NPTM will be available this summer.   

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