A collaboration to prevent toddler drowning

30 July 2020

Young children are the age group most at risk of drowning in Australia, with an average of 25 deaths per year among children aged 0 to 4 years across the country. The Australasian Injury Prevention Network, working in collaboration with Royal Life Saving Society – Australia and Water Safety New Zealand, recently released a position paper to collate the evidence on child drowning and make recommendations on how these deaths can be prevented. The paper’s 10 recommendations for prevention recognise the importance of community education and collaboration to prevent toddler drowning.

One of the most effective strategies for reducing drowning among young children is to increase awareness of how important it is for an adult to actively supervise at all times when a young child is near – or has access to – water. The position paper recognises this in its recommendations and looks to support and promote water safety programs that focus on child drowning prevention.
It also focusses on the importance of promoting strategies to reduce inequities and improve outcomes for those young children at greatest risk of drowning, including: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, Māori children, multicultural children, children experiencing socio-economic disadvantage, and children living in rural and remote areas.

The issue of children drowning is one that impacts all areas of our community in some way, and must therefore be tackled by all of us. The position paper encourages collaboration between water safety organisations, child health and safety organisations, local government, research institutions, policymakers, and the community to address this important issue. It calls for advocacy at all levels of government to recognise the importance of consistent pool barrier legislation and enforcement strategies.

At a practical level the position paper encourages all pool owners to regularly check and maintain their pool barriers, while also encouraging landowners, the business community and the general public to actively and regularly assess and mitigate water hazards in publicly accessible spaces, and consider the risk they pose to young children. All community members are also encouraged to undertake regular cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training so that they are able to assist should they need to.

Finally the paper advocates for improved data collection and reporting on non-fatal drowning among young children, recognising that non-fatal drowning is a real issue in our community and has a devastating impact on those families affected.

Royal Life Saving WA supports the recommendations of the paper, many of which we are implementing through our Keep Watch toddler drowning prevention program, home pool barrier inspection program and CPR training courses.

You can read the full position paper at the link below.

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