New project develops systems to reduce the risk of accidental falls
Today, falls are the most common accident occurring at work in Sweden. Every year, 11 000 such accidents occur, mainly in the industrial, transport, construction and healthcare sectors. Most accidents occur when moving on foot and the incidence of falls has increased in the 46–55 age group. MDU has recently been granted funding for a new project in which medical and health technology researchers will develop systems that enable early identification of people with increased fall risk and offer individual support to reduce the risk of falls.
“Experiences from previous research which was aimed at detecting fall risk at an early stage form the basis for the project. The goal of the project is to create measurement tools that allow an individual to assess their own fall risk and then receive digital support and reduce their fall risk themselves,” says Mia Folke, Project member at MDU.
One estimates that across the world there are annually about 684 000 fatal falls and 37.3 million serious accidental falls that require medical attention. These injuries, which cause enormous individual suffering, are also associated with excessive costs for society. Fall risk increases with age and the age-related fall risk is higher among women. Through early detection of fall risk and individual support, the project aims to reduce the risk of falls across all age groups.
“The project focuses on people of working age. Together with end users and participating companies, we will develop measurement tools for fall risk assessment, user interfaces for communication around fall risk and a system that produces personalised recommendations based on the individual's mental model of their physical ability to reduce fall risk“, says Annica Kristoffersson, Project Manager.
“The understanding of which parameters correlate with an increased risk of falling and the knowledge of how to reduce it yourself will therefore be packaged in an appropriate digital format in order to have the desired impact for the individual. The knowledge that we will gain through this project, about how systems should be adapted based on a user's mental model, can also be used in other similar applications.”
Collaboration with Swedish industry
The project, called PRE-fall (Personalized fall Risk reduction based on Early detection of deteriorated physical abilities), will be conducted in collaboration with Atea Sverige AB, Motion Control i Västerås AB and MDU (as a Coordinator), where all parties contribute with various experiences and competencies in the area. This cooperation will help strengthen the existing partnership between industry and the University.
“Motion Control has for many years collaborated with Mälardalen University. We look forward to continuing to develop technologies and knowledge about motion sensors and AI algorithms together," says Christer Gerdtman, CEO of Motion Control i Västerås AB.
“Preventive health care is one of our strategic focus areas and we hope and believe that the knowledge about user interfaces for self-tests and individualised recommendations that we generate
together in this project will also benefit other areas. Here it is important to give the individual the possibility to independently reduce the risk of illness and injury,” says Simon Norman, Business Area Manager Investment areas and System development at Atea Sverige AB.
“Collaboration with these companies is strategically important for our courses and programmes that we offer in medical and health technology as well as computer science. The project also strengthens our expertise in fall prevention, measurement systems, human-system interaction, user-centred design processes and adaptive, transparent user interfaces,” says Annica Kristoffersson, Project Manager.
The project is funded by the Knowledge Foundation's HÖG 21 programme.