Friday, December 5, 2014

Collaborative Task-Force Aiming to Reduce Ugandan Drowning Rate

      Justin Sempsrott, M.D., SAI Medical Director and the Executive Director of Lifeguards Without Borders, traveled to Uganda in October as part of an inter-agency team to address drowning prevention. Uganda has one of the highest drowning rates worldwide. This was a first-time collaboration for SAI, the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA), Lifeguards Without Borders, Nile Swimmers, and the three main aquatic safety entities in Uganda: Swim Safe Uganda, Uganda Lifesaving Federation and the Royal Lifesaving Society of Uganda.

     While in Uganda, Sempsrott and the representatives of ISLA and Nile Swimmers conducted a 3-day course on lifeguarding, water safety and CPR for 60 participants. “The course was great and very helpful to those who attended, but the most beneficial part of our trip was meeting with the community stakeholders and the focus on teaching survival swimming in the community,” said Dr. Sempsrott.

     The community stakeholders meeting was the first of its kind in Uganda, and included not only the aquatic safety agencies, but also representatives from the police and fire departments, EMS, military, Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Education and the Uganda Swim Federation. Committee members created a task-force to address drowning in Uganda. The task-force will meet monthly to create an agenda for drowning prevention.

Dr. Sempsrott and the aquatics safety agency representatives he traveled with are very
excited with the outcome of the meeting.

“Together we are stronger. No one agency can solve the problem of drowning alone,”
Dr. Sempsrott said. “We rely on multiple levels of protection for drowning prevention:
pool gates, supervision, swim lessons. The same method can be applied when addressing drowning at a policy level . We need multiple levels at  multiple agencies working together.”

Dr. Sempsrott reported that the initial task-force meeting quickly highlighted the biggest aquatics safety need in the community: survival swimming.

“At this point, we can break swimming into two components: competitive swimming and survival swimming,” explained Dr. Sempsrott, “Survival swimming is just what it sounds like; it’s teaching kids and adults how to handle themselves in the water so they don’t drown.”

    Ugandan swimming Olympian Peter Mugisha was in attendance at the stakeholders task force meeting and charged the Minister of Education with the goal of implementing a swim instruction program for children within the school system. The Minister of Education reportedly agreed that children should be taught how to swim at school, but noted that it may take years before the school system and curriculum is updated to include swim instruction programs.

    “It would be great progress to have a swim instruction program within the schools, but that could take a while to get started,” Dr. Sempsrott stated. He reinforced the need for non-profit programs to provide a survival swimming program in the meantime. J. and Lorraine Wilson of the Dive Spot, Inc. a Training Center for SAI, took the Starfish Swimming curriculum to Uganda and demonstrated that brief swimming interventions can be effective for teaching survival swimming skills.  Dr. Sempsrott noted that there is a continuing need for additional programs like the one spearheaded by the Wilsons.

   “If we can teach the kids in Uganda to swim, we can vaccinate them from drowning later in life,” Dr. Sempsrott urged. We need more agencies to get involved. If we all work together and play to the strengths of each agency, we can do more to help.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saving Waters Program, Aims to Reduce Drowning in Uganda

Project Uganda 2014, the multi-agency collaborative effort to educate Ugandans on the importance of lifeguards, water safety, and drowning prevention, wraps up today. The long term effects from Project Uganda 2014 are unknown, but it is clear that it is possible to have an impact in a country where the drowning is the leading cause of accidental death, and the country’s drowning rate is among the highest in the world.

SAI is not new to partnering with agencies to strive towards the goal of reducing the drowning rate in Uganda. SAI has partnered with The Dive Spot to implement the Saving Waters program in Uganda. In 2014, J and Lorraine Wilson, of The Dive Spot in Abilene, TX, traveled to Uganda to provide swim lessons and education to almost 500 children and adults over the course of four days. The swim lessons focused on providing the children and adults with skills to lower their risk of drowning, as well as helping the children and adults become more acclimated with the water.  

Watch the video below from J and Lorraine Wilson about the Saving Waters program and the excitement over learning to swim in Uganda. 

Saving Waters from Lifeguards Without Borders on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

SAI Drowning Prevention Collaboration in Uganda

Starfish Aquatics Institute (SAI) announced today that it is partnering in an international drowning prevention collaboration in Uganda with the International Surf Lifesaving Association, Lifeguards Without Borders and Nile Swimmers. Representatives from each organization will be joining SwimSafe Uganda this month for a water safety and lifesaving training program in Kampala, Uganda. SAI is an international training, certification and aquatic risk management organization. The collaborative effort, known as Project Uganda 2014, will educate Ugandans on the importance of lifeguards, water safety and drowning prevention. Two national media conferences have been scheduled in conjunction with the events.

“Evidence shows that lifesaving programs greatly reduce the drowning rates in resource deficit areas,” said Justin Sempsrott, M.D., Medical Director for SAI and the Executive Director of Lifeguards Without Borders. “Together, we have the opportunity to have a tremendous impact on this country. 95% of the world’s drowning deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Data is hard to come by in these areas and it is believed that Africa and Southeast Asia bear the largest global burden of drowning.” 

Along with SwimSafe Uganda, SAI, ISLA, Lifeguards Without Borders and Nile Swimmers will unite with the other two national lifesaving agencies in Uganda, the Uganda Lifesaving Federation and the Royal Lifesaving Federation, to coordinate their drowning prevention efforts. In addition to the water safety and lifesaving program, the organizations will meet to recommend legislation on water safety, swim instruction and lifesaving with representatives from the following organizations:

 Ministry of Education and Sports

 Kampala Capital City Authority

 Ministry of Youth and Children

 Uganda Police

 National Council of Sports

 Uganda Swimming Federation

“In addition to our meetings with the government, I will lecture on water safety while in Uganda,” Dr. Sempsrott noted. “I will also review the lifesaving course methodology so that best practices are incorporated for use by Ugandans." SwimSafe Uganda hosted one lifesaving clinic prior to this collaborative effort. “Close to one hundred swimming coaches, lifeguards, and pool attendants participated in the lifesaving swimming clinic last year,” Moses Kalanzi, the coordinator of SwimSafe Uganda said. “I believe these clinics will go a long way in helping us understand and develop skills in lifesaving in the country,” he stressed.  In the past, SwimSafe partnered with the Ugandan National Council on Sports, Police/Fire Prevention/Rescue Organization and the Ministries of Education, Sports, and Youth/Children to initiate the event.

FollowProject Uganda as it unfolds: 

Use #Collaboration on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for live updates of the project.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SAI's Training Center Participates in Adult Learn to Swim Month

Swim lessons are often designed and encouraged for children, but not every child learns how to swim. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 37 percent of American adults cannot swim the length of a pool. The U.S. Masters Swimming charitable arm, the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, is working to lower the risk of adult drowning and improve long-term fitness by declaring the month of April “Adult Learn-to-Swim Month.” Since being established in 2010, the SSLF has provided grants to partners across the nation to provide adult learn-to-swim lessons in their community.    

SAI’s Training Center in Savannah, Georgia, the Chatham County Aquatic Center, received a SSLF grant in October 2013, and has already had 68 adults complete the learn to swim program.  Working with adult students has proven to have a number of differences than compared to working with children. “Many students have been so fearful of getting in the water; they do not even know how to hold their breath on land,” Chatham County Aquatic Center’s Aquatics Director, Misty Selph said. Teaching adults to let go of their fear of the water and to learn how to swim 50 yards prompted the development of a new adult learn to swim curriculum. Selph said she has enjoyed developing a specialized adult learn to swim curriculum alongside SAI’s Swim School Specialist, Jennifer White. Selph reported, “Working so closely with SAI has allowed us to develop the lessons in a way that we provide a realistic and attainable goal for the students.”

Since October, 68 adults have learned to swim at the Chatham County Aquatic Center. This month there are 30 adults enrolled in the program, with a wait list of 32 adults. Selph recognized the high demand for adult swim lessons, and she responded by asking those in the community to be trained as volunteer swim instructors. Seven volunteers have been trained as adult swim instructors through a custom course that offers both classroom and water instruction. Selph reports that it is not only the adults receiving the swim lessons who have benefited from the lessons, but it is also the volunteer instructors.“The instructors are so excited to work with other adults who are learning to swim for the first time,” reported Selph. 

The goal of the Chatham County Aquatic Center is to provide free swim lessons to at least 105 adults by the end of August 2014. After the SSLF grant is completed in August, the Chatham County Aquatic Center will not end the adult swim lesson program, but will continue to provide adult swim lessons for a fee.