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Better Strength, Better Balance! Partnering to deliver a fall prevention program for older adults

Darcie Taing, Kelly McKay


SETTING: Falls incur significant health and economic costs, particularly among older adults. Physical activity has been found to be the single most important fall prevention behaviour an older adult can do. This manuscript describes Ottawa Public Health’s (OPH) experience implementing the Better Strength, Better Balance! (BSBB) program, a fall prevention exercise program for older adults, through an innovative partnership with the local Recreation, Cultural & Facility Services (RCFS) Department. BSBB aims to reach 1300 community-dwelling adults (aged 65 years and older) per year through approximately 86–130 exercise programs. Designed as a universal program, BSBB addresses participation barriers such as transportation, cost and location. BSBB was enabled with funding from the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, and coincided with the implementation of an Older Adult Plan for the City of Ottawa.

INTERVENTION: BSBB is a beginner-level, fall prevention exercise and education program that takes place twice a week, over 12 weeks. Certified RCFS instructors delivered the exercise components of the program and OPH staff incorporated fall prevention messaging and conducted the evaluation.

OUTCOMES: The formative evaluation indicated that participants experienced improved strength and balance, decreased fear of falling and the intent to adopt new fall prevention behaviours following the program. The partnership between OPH and RCFS allowed both partners to leverage their unique and mutual strengths to continually improve the program.

IMPLICATIONS: Improving access to strength and balance programming is an important public health strategy to reduce falls. The recreation sector is an ideal partner to help public health in this pursuit.


Aged; exercise; accidental falls; evaluation studies; recreation; public health

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