Friday, September 20, 2013

Do You Know the Definition of Drowning?

There's a problem with the definition of drowning. The problem is that most people aren't using the correct definition.

This past August, when Usher's son was rescued from being entrapped in a pool drain, the incident was reported by the media as a near-drowning. This sort of media lingo occurs almost every time a nonfatal drowning occurs. The misuse drowning terminology in the news is not so much the fault of the media outlets as it is those who are reporting these incidents - health and water safety professionals.  

So what's the big deal with using phrases like near drowning? It's not so much about word preferences as as it's about data collection. We know that drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children, and that drowning is a public health problem worldwide, but we don't actually know how much of a problem it is. The reason we don't know the actual prevalence of this issue is because not every drowning is reported, because not every incident is considered a drowning. In order to have a better understanding of the prevalence of drowning, it's helpful to include all relevant, whether fatal or not. Nonfatal drownings are often underreported or not reported all.  A comprehensive definition of drowning means eliminating the notion that drownings can nearly happen. 

In 2005 the World Health Organization used the consensus of health professionals to provide a clear definition of drowning. As a result, drowning is defined as
"the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid."
With this definition it is impossible to nearly drown. To account differences in incidents, the WHO has designated drowning outcome classifications as: death, morbidity, no morbidity. 

This uniform definition of drowning will help give us a better understanding of the worldwide prevalence of drowning, whether fatal or nonfatal. This definition is only useful when it's applied, though. As professionals, we can lead the way to better  drowning surveillance by incorporating the WHO's definition of drowning and educating others to do so as well. 

For the full paper on the process of defining drowning, review this Policy and Practice paper by the WHO. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

National Preparedness Month Can be for Everyone

We are a little over half way through the 10th annual National Preparedness Month. This September promotion was instituted by FEMA as a result of 9/11 and addresses circumstances not necessarily related to water safety. The concept of being prepared is powerful, though, and can easily be applied to water safety.

How prepared are home swimming pools for guests to be safe?

How prepared are parents to have their children near or in the water?

How prepared are lifeguards to rescue someone?

How prepared are swimming facilities for large groups of children to be in the pool?

Preparation is never to be underestimated or overlooked. Take time to prepare.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Recent Drowning Statistics, Apparent Drop

The Centers for Disease Control recently released drowning statistics for 1999-2010 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The current data follows the same trend historically seen: the most vulnerable population for drowning are children under 4 years of age, the drowning rate for males is higher than females, and drowning continues to remain one of the leading causes of death in children. The statistics of drowning are always heavy and sobering. There is a positive angle to these statistics, however. The CDC reported from 1989-1998 there were an average of 4,811 victims of fatal drownings per year. The average number of drowning deaths per year from 1999-2000 was 4,147.

The drop in number of fatal drownings appears significant. These statistics provide optimism that efforts to bring awareness and training in aquatics safety are valuable and effective. There is still work to be done, because any fatal drowning is one too many, but progress is being made.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

She did it!

This past weekend was incredibly exciting for the world of swimming. At 64 years old, and after multiple attempts, Diana Nyad has successfully swam from Havana to Key West without a shark cage or swim fins. Diana is very much an inspiration and a great example of perseverance. Hopefully her journey will continue to influence swimmers for decades to come.