University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Influences of a Church-Based Intervention on Falls Risk Among Seniors

Morgan Briggs, BA; Jeffrey A. Morzinski, PhD, MSW; Julie Ellis, PhD, RN

WMJ. 2019;118(1):161-164

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Background and Objectives: Prior studies illustrate that community-based programs effectively decrease falls risk in older adults and that faith-based programs improve health behaviors. The literature is unclear whether faith-based initiatives reduce seniors’ fall risks. To tackle this gap, a long-term partnership led by 10 urban churches, a nearby nursing school, and a medical school developed a study with 3 objectives: determine baseline health concerns associated with falls (eg, depression, polypharmacy), implement a nurse-led, faith-based health education initiative for community-dwelling African American seniors at-risk of hospitalization, and assess pre- to post-program fall frequency.

Methods: The 100 Healthy, At-Risk Families study team implemented 8 monthly educational health sessions promoting self-care and social support. Community nurses led the 60- to 90-minute sessions at each of 10 churches. To collect study data, nurses interviewed enrolled seniors pre- and post-intervention. Descriptive and comparison statistics were analyzed in Excel and Statistical Package for Social Sciences.

Results: Senior data at baseline found high rates of polypharmacy and physical imbalance, and no significant depression or gaps in social support. There was not a statistically significant change pre- to post-program in fall frequency “in prior year.”

Conclusions: Study findings reveal insights about African American senior health and fall risks. Church settings may provide a protective, psychosocial buffer for seniors, while polypharmacy and mobility/balance concerns indicate need for continued attention to fall risks. No increase in pre- to post-program falls was encouraging.

Author Affiliations: Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wis (Briggs, Morzinski); University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee College of Nursing, Milwaukee, Wis (Ellis).
Corresponding Author: Morgan Briggs, BA, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226; phone 414.955.8696; e-mail
Acknowledgements: This research was presented at the Family Medicine Midwest Conference in Chicago, Illinois, October 11, 2015 and the 42nd Annual Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Conference on Medical Student Education in Phoenix, Arizona, January 30, 2016. The authors wish to thank study team member Mellissa DeNomie, MS, for her contributions to program coordination. We also thank the 100 HF nurse educators, parish leaders and participants without whom this project would not have been possible.
Funding/Support: This study was supported by grants from AHW-Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, National Institute on Aging Training Grant T35AG029793, and the Health Resources & Services Administration.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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