Tackling the challenges of Colombia's dizzy heights

30 September 2013

In the Andes, Colombia (Photo: Johana Arias)
In the Andes, Colombia (Photo: Johana Arias)

Colombia has a diverse natural landscape, with the Pacific Ocean on the east and the Andes mountain range on the west. While Colombia's geography supports high biodiversity of flora and fauna, it presents unique challenges for its human inhabitants.

Older people living in the rural highlands of the Andes region are at higher risk of falls and fractures than in other South American countries.

Gustavo Duque in Cartagena, Colombia
Gustavo Duque in Cartagena, Colombia

Hoping to tackle this unique health care challenge, Gustavo Duque from the University's Ageing Bone Research Program has teamed up with Fernando Gomez, a visiting professor from Colombia.

Professor Duque, who was born in Colombia, says: "Fall injuries are major causes of fractures and mortality in older people, but they can be prevented with the right intervention, such as assessments for balance, dizziness, gait and bone density."

In Colombia, Professor Gomez's existing Falls Clinic at the University of Caldas has extensive experience assessing older people in the coffee growing areas of the Colombian Andes.

However, the program lacked the vital component of fracture risk assessment, which Professor Duque has helped to develop at the University of Sydney.

Working together, they have integrated their different experiences on falls prevention to develop a new model of care at the Falls and Fractures Clinic in Manizales.

While both clinics take a multidisciplinary approach to falls prevention, Professor Gomez and Professor Duque are working to link the Manizales clinic to osteoporosis services to provide comprehensive intervention for the elderly.

In addition to reducing falls within the Andes Mountains community, the clinic aims to improve dizziness symptoms in older fallers, often associated with other chronic conditions and physical impairments

Professor Duque says that he hopes the project will extend across Colombia as well as attract new opportunities for collaborations with other Colombian groups in areas such as frailty, falls and fractures.

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 0724280007013d7d1f0602321a0f46013e1c061862122f43740625