Drowning deaths under-reported, non-health sector data can be relevant in drowning prevention: Study

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New Delhi: Drowning deaths are frequently under-reported in birth and death registration systems, according to a new paper published in The Lancet which noted that while a perfect national drowning registry is an ideal goal, non-health sector data can provide contextually relevant insights and help in preventing drowning incidents.

The paper published by The George Institute for Global Health has noted that collecting primary data on drowning is challenging.

"Collecting primary data on drowning is challenging. Low or middle-income countries (LMIC) often have insufficient water rescue or timely emergency response, thus presentation to health facilities for drowning occurs less frequently in these settings than in high-income countries. Consequently, drownings are unlikely to be reported in medical record-based health statistics or health economic assessments," according to the paper.

"Moreover, drowning deaths disproportionately affect children and are frequently under-reported in birth and death registration systems in countries with high drowning rates.

"Data on drowning are fragmented across multiple sectors and come from those working in disaster management, maritime agencies, the police, the health-care system, among others," it added.

The paper has been co-authored by Justin-Paul Scarr, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian non-profit Royal Life Saving Society and Dr Jagnoor Jagnoor, Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute for Global Health.

The George Institute for Global Health is an independent medical research institute headquartered in Australia with offices in China, India and the United Kingdom.

"Although a perfect national drowning registry is desirable, non-health sector data can provide contextually relevant insights and identify important prevention roles. Additional population-based data are crucial to mitigate the limitations of facility-based and modelled data."

"Gaps persist between knowledge and action for drowning prevention, partly attributed to factors such as a lack of shared language between sectors, inadequate recognition of local values, and insufficient investment in capacity development for prevention interventions," it said.

"An example of such a gap is the definition and reporting of non-fatal drowning incidents, as well as cultural acceptance and capacity limitations among community members in delivering first aid responses to drownings," according to the study.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), drowning claims over 2.36 lakh lives each year, making it a top 10 cause of death for children and youth aged one to 24 years.

More than 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, with rural children and adolescents disproportionately affected.

"There are challenges in the implementation of resolutions and recommendations for developing national multisectoral drowning prevention programmes and action plans.

"Community engagement and empowerment are essential for equitable and sustainable multisectoral action for drowning prevention. Effective engagement involves asset-based approaches that embrace cultural resources and processes," the paper added.

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