The first wave of baby boomers turn 65 this year. Means very soon our senior population with potential risk of falling will be doubled. Are we ready to address this rising crisis in our nation? An inspiriting lecture from Dr Richie at the APMA National meeting in Boston last July, overviewed how podiatrists can contribute to this field. Dr Richie by reviewing over fifty papers published recently, concluded some simple and low cost interventions by podiatrists could significantly save money from our health care system. In particular he referred to a recent landmark study published in BMJ (British Medical Journal) on 2011 which demonstrated that a multifaceted podiatry intervention in a free-living community of seniors reduced falls by 36 percent over two years compared to a control group. This is equivalent to $8 billion saving per year in US!
Dr. Richie said it’s critical to know that proper footwear and orthotics can help prevent falls by improving balance and proprioception. It’s also essential to realize that casts, night braces, and walking boots can increase the risk of falls. Dr. Richie concluded these recent evidences are wake-up call to us. “Everyone knows we’re experts in the treatment of diabetic feet,” he said, “but fall prevention is a whole new area that represents a great challenge and opportunity for our profession.” To meet the challenge, podiatrists need to recognize risk factors and help patients take steps to address them.
In agreement with Dr Richie’s conclusion, in one of our recent studies published in Gait&Posture (2010), we demonstrated that orthoses improves gait initiation, balance, and gait automation (steadiness) during walking compared to regular shoes and barefoot walking. Thus providing a simple and low cost care to feet, either via prescribing appropriate footware or enhancing foot biomechanics can save significant money for our nation.