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BACKGROUND: Falls impose significant health and economic burdens on community-dwelling older persons. Decision modelling can inform commissioning of alternative falls prevention strategies. Several methodological challenges arise when modelling public health interventions including community-based falls prevention. This study aims to conduct a systematic review (SR) to: systematically identify community-based falls prevention economic models; synthesise and critically appraise how the models handled key methodological challenges associated with public health modelling; and suggest areas for further methodological research. METHODS: The SR followed the 2021 PRISMA reporting guideline and covered the period 2003-2020 and 12 academic databases and grey literature. The extracted methodological features of included models were synthesised by their relevance to the following challenges: (1) capturing non-health outcomes and societal intervention costs; (2) considering heterogeneity and dynamic complexity; (3) considering theories of human behaviour and implementation; and (4) considering equity issues. The critical appraisal assessed the prevalence of each feature across models, then appraised the methods used to incorporate the feature. The methodological strengths and limitations stated by the modellers were used as indicators of desirable modelling practice and scope for improvement, respectively. The methods were also compared against those suggested in the broader empirical and methodological literature. Areas of further methodological research were suggested based on appraisal results. RESULTS: 46 models were identified. Comprehensive incorporation of non-health outcomes and societal intervention costs was infrequent. The assessments of heterogeneity and dynamic complexity were limited; subgroup delineation was confined primarily to demographics and binary disease/physical status. Few models incorporated heterogeneity in intervention implementation level, efficacy and cost. Few dynamic variables other than age and falls history were incorporated to characterise the trajectories of falls risk and general health/frailty. Intervention sustainability was frequently based on assumptions; few models estimated the economic/health returns from improved implementation. Seven models incorporated ethnicity- and severity-based subgroups but did not estimate the equity-efficiency trade-offs. Sixteen methodological research suggestions were made. CONCLUSION: Existing community-based falls prevention models contain methodological limitations spanning four challenge areas relevant for public health modelling. There is scope for further methodological research to inform the development of falls prevention and other public health models.

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Decision modelling, Economic evaluation, Falls prevention, Geriatric public health