A small-area study of environmental risk assessment of outdoor falls

J Med Syst. 2011 Dec;35(6):1543-52. doi: 10.1007/s10916-010-9431-1. Epub 2010 Jan 29.


Falls in public places are an issue of great health concern especially for the elderly. Falls among the elderly is also a major health burden in many countries. This study describes a spatial approach to assess environmental causes of outdoor falls using a small urban community in Hong Kong as an example. The method involves collecting data on fall occurrences and mapping their geographic positions to examine circumstances and environmental evidence that contribute to falls. High risk locations or hot spots of falls are identified on the bases of spatial proximity and concentration of falls within a threshold distance by means of kernel smoothing and standard deviational ellipses. This method of geographic aggregation of individual fall incidents for a small-area study yields hot spots of manageable sizes. The spatial clustering approach is effective in two ways. Firstly, it allows visualisation and isolation of fall hot spots to draw focus. Secondly and especially under conditions of resource decline, policy makers are able to target specific locations to examine the underlying causal mechanisms and strategise effective response and preventive measures based on the types of environmental risk factors identified.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors