ILS Drowning Prevention Strategies

TitleILS Drowning Prevention Strategies
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2011
Corporate AuthorsInternational Life Saving Federation,
Date Published03/2011
InstitutionInternational Life Saving Federation
Keywordsdrowning prevention, strategy

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Guidelines for safe recreational water environments suggest that "recreational water activities can bring health benefits to users, including exercise and relaxation. Effective management can control potential adverse health consequences that can be associated with the use of unsafe recreational water environments. Different stakeholders play different roles in the management of the recreational water environment." Further, "the development of approaches to controlling hazards that may be encountered in recreational environments" can be through the use of Guidelines such as those available through WHO. (17)

The ongoing goal of the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) is to reduce death by drowning worldwide. Most importantly, ILS will assist in the development of control measures (intervention strategies) to employ scarce resources toward the most effective drowning intervention strategies. The ultimate goal is a meaningful reduction in the incidence of drowning worldwide.

Death by drowning is a serious threat to world health. United Nations world population projections suggest that we can anticipate that the drowning problem is going to get worse without significant intervention, especially in developing countries. (4)

As the world water safety organisation, ILS has an obligation to take a lead role in defining and articulating solutions to reduce the drowning problem.
ILS will provide leadership in communicating the nature and scope of the world drowning problem and provide guidance to member organisations, governments and partners concerning solutions to the drowning problem.

Identifying the contributing factors allows ILS to provide effective prevention actions to the highest risk populations, locations and activities via its member federations. ILS plans to update these strategies with regular frequency. ILS will work with its member organisations and others to assist in finding effective solutions to assist in the reduction of drowning, either as a national project or as a development aid programme.

Drowning Prevention Strategies, A framework to reduce drowning deaths in the aquatic environment for nations/regions engaged in lifesaving, 2008 and subsequent editions will assist member federations in deploying their resources for the most effective drowning control measures aimed at high-risk target groups.

Prevention programmes in the most developed nations/regions should encompass strategies to address the needs of high-risk target groups and focus on:

  • Environmental modification: removing hazards or creating barriers
  • Protecting those at risk: promoting change in risk-taking supervision;
  • Promoting swim and lifesaving skills development
  • Training the general community in water safety and resuscitation.
  • Provision of trained lifeguards to conduct patron surveillance and supervision at aquatic facilities and beach areas (20)

“USLA data during 1988-1997 indicate that more than three-quarters of drowning at USLA sites occurred at times when beaches were unguarded and that the chances of drowning at a beach protected by lifeguards trained under USLA standards is less than one in 18 million.’ (20)

In the less developed nations/regions establishing primary education and public health systems, to elevate literacy and awareness, saves lives. This also enhanced the economic and health capacity of the population. Drowning prevention strategies in these settings will be social adaptations such as the provision of day care, and the provision of structured school. Social change strategies are effective for unintended injury reduction, including drowning prevention.

Interventional strategies are most effective when they are conceived, enacted and researched by culturally sensitive persons (native/local leadership) from within the target nation, population, and region. The building of internal empowerment, expanding capacity and confidence, within the nation/region is important to have the initiative systematic, substantial, sustained, and service linked.

This document is not meant to imply that a control measure listed here will have the same impact in another nation/region. This document is designed to list ideas that have worked in different parts of the world that may assist in developing strategies to prevent drowning in other nations/regions. ILS is not attempting to tell you what we think that you need, but rather allowing you to decide and develop research to determine your needs. This document is designed to facilitate ideas to assist you in the determination of those needs.

More importantly, the reader should note that this document has been produced by the ILS Rescue and Education Committees through the lens of well established lifesaving nations. ILS acknowledges that significant work needs to be done to understand and articulate appropriate control measures to assist developing nations. This work is currently being scoped by the ILS Drowning Prevention Commission.

Control measures work. This document is the first step in setting out a range of control measures that will assist in reducing death by drowning in developed nations/regions.