Researchers from Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) have secured $1.4 million under the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund to conduct a world-first trial on the role of telehealth as a new model of healthcare delivery to prevent falls and fractures in older adults.

Falls and fragility fractures cause more days of hospitalization than most other diseases and account for over half of all injury-related healthcare costs in Australia.

Current models of care for fracture prevention focus on pharmaceuticals which reduce fracture risk by 20-50%. However, this approach misses 50-60% of fracture cases in those with osteopenia (low bone density), and has no effect of reducing the risk of falls.

Current best practice clinical guidelines endorse the prescription of regular exercise and nutrition interventions with lifestyle risk factor management to reduce falls and fractures. However, uptake and adherence to traditional community programs is often low/poor, and not personalized to meet individuals’ needs, preferences, financial and social resources.

Digital health technologies (tele-health) offer an equitable, inexpensive and accessible opportunity to meet the needs of a greater number of people at risk of falls and fractures, with the added advantage of being able to deliver personalized programs and information and timely patient-practitioner communication anywhere at any time – a personal health coach in your pocket.

Professor Robin Daly, Chair in Exercise and Ageing at IPAN, will lead this MRFF project to trial the use of digital health to reduce falls and fractures in older adults with osteoporosis and/or who are at risk for falls and fractures.

The TeleFFIT project – Tele-health for Falls and Fracture Prevention Implementation Trial – will offer a personalized, multifaceted, tele-health falls/fracture prevention program to people who are at increased risk. It will involve a 12-month hybrid effectiveness-implementation trial to evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness, implementation and potential scalability of the program into ‘real-world’ practice.

Professor Daly said the intervention is unique as it will be the first to assess a smart device exercise app with personalized behaviour change support, self-directed learning, and nutrition and peer support to improve self-management behaviours related to common falls/fracture risk factors.

“Findings from this world-first study will fill a critical clinical and practice care gap to guide a personalized, integrated exercise, nutrition and lifestyle risk factor management tele-health model of service delivery that is feasible, cost-effective and with immediate real-world applicability and scalability to reduce the risk of falls/fractures in older people,” Professor Daly said.

This 4-year clinical trial involves a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from across Deakin University in collaboration with the University of Melbourne (Department of Physiotherapy and Department of Medicine and Aged Care), Monash University (Department of Medicine/School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health) and the University of Waterloo (Department of Kinesiology) in Canada.

The Australian Government’s MRFF provides funding to enable research to look at new approaches to preventative health. The latest round of funding focuses on vulnerable groups, including older adults, with a focus on improving diet, nutrition and physical activity.


Project details:

Funding: Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Preventive and Public Health Scheme.

Title: TeleFFIT – a personalised, tele-health exercise and lifestyle risk factor management program to reduce falls and fracture risk in older adults: a 12 month hybrid effectiveness implementation trial, 2020-24.


Prof Robin Daly, Prof Kim Bennell, Associate Prof. David Scott, Prof Peter Ebeling, Professor Andrea Maier, Prof Lora Giangregorio, Prof Rana Hinman, Associate Prof. Jenny Watts, Dr Harriet Koorts, Prof Sarah  McNaughton. (Associate investigators: Dr Catherine Milte, Professor Ralph Maddison, Dr Jonathan Rawstorn, Professor Liliana Orellana).

For further information about this project, please contact: Professor Robin Daly, Chair in Exercise and Ageing, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin University

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