Research Priority: Safety and Injury prevention in home, clinical, and community settings

Safety and injury prevention is a priority area across the lifespan, in home, clinical, and community settings.  Many examples exist of areas in great need of more effective interventions and improved outcomes.

  • Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.  In the United States, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually.1
  • Age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning, as well as physical changes, may affect some older adults’ driving abilities.  In 2012, more than 5,560 older adults were killed and more than 214,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes.2
  • For many older adults and those with multiple health problems, the ability to remain independent in one’s home depends on the ability to manage a complicated medication regimen. Approximately 30% of hospital admissions of older adults are drug related, with more than 11% attributed to medication nonadherence and 10–17% related to adverse drug reactions.  Older adults discharged from the hospital on more than five drugs are more likely to visit the emergency department and be rehospitalized during the first six months after discharge.3
  • In 2010, 2.5 million traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occurred across the lifespan as an isolated injury or along with other injuries.  More research is needed to prevent TBIs and to help people better recognize, respond and recover if they sustain a TBI.4

Urgent Need

Safety and injury prevention has been identified as  

  • a critical issue for promoting health and well-being for many conditions and population
  • an area in which evidence-based measures and interventions are needed
  • an area where application of the unique expertise of occupational therapy would be highly beneficial


The OT Lens

Injuries happen when people are “doing everyday activities”. The occupational therapy lens on injuries and safety is a comprehensive understanding of “doing” and the requisite skills of people and features of the environment that support “safe doing”.  

Current knowledge, research training, measures and interventions in the area of safety and injury prevention are inadequate for addressing safety and health issues.  AOTF is committed to the development of a scientific network and body of evidence to achieve effective and efficient advances in occupational therapy science for the area of safety and injury prevention in home, clinical, and community settings.

Opportunity to Affect Progress

There are a few occupational therapy scientists who are building knowledge related to safety and injury prevention.  However, there is not a coordinated network for occupational therapy research in this area, nor sufficient resources to train more occupational therapy researchers.  We believe a significant investment is needed to improve safety and decrease or better treat injuries across the lifespan in order to achieve better outcomes and improve quality of life.

2.  CDC Features: New Data on Older Drivers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. Atlanta, GA. April 29, 2015  Retrieved from

3. Hughes, RG, ed. (2008). Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Chapter 18. Retrieved from

4.  Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. Atlanta, GA. January 22, 2016. Retrieved from


To make a donation,

use the secure link above or

use this form and mail with your gift to: 


4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 202

Bethesda, MD  20814