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Podiatric Involvement in Multidisciplinary Falls-Prevention Clinics in Australia

Hylton B. Menz Musculoskeletal Research Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

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Keith D. Hill National Ageing Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.

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Background: Falls in older people are a major public health problem, and there is increasing evidence that foot problems and inappropriate footwear increase the risk of falls. Several multidisciplinary prevention clinics have been established to address the problem of falls; however, the role of podiatry in these clinics has not been clearly defined. The aims of this study were to determine the level of podiatric involvement in multidisciplinary falls clinics in Australia and to describe the assessments undertaken and interventions provided by podiatrists in these settings.

Methods: A database of falls clinics was developed through consultation with departments of health in each state and territory. Clinic managers were contacted and surveyed as to whether the clinic incorporated podiatry services. If so, the podiatrists were contacted and asked to complete a brief questionnaire regarding their level of involvement and the assessment procedures and interventions offered.

Results: Of the 36 clinics contacted, 25 completed the survey. Only four of these clinics reported direct podiatric involvement. Despite the limited involvement of podiatry in these clinics, all of the clinic managers stated that they considered podiatry to have an important role to play in falls prevention. Podiatry service provision in falls clinics varied considerably in relation to eligibility criteria, assessments undertaken, and interventions provided.

Conclusions: Despite the recognition that foot problems and inappropriate footwear are risk factors for falls, podiatry currently has a relatively minor and poorly defined role in multidisciplinary falls-prevention clinics in Australia. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 97(5): 377–384, 2007)

Corresponding author: Hylton B. Menz, PhD, Musculoskeletal Research Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria 3086, Australia.