ASU launches water safety education program to reduce child drownings
PHOENIX — Pediatricians and other doctors in Arizona will now have water safety educational materials they can provide during well-child visits for young children thanks to a new program.
Arizona State University launched the program last month in partnership with the Michael Phelps Foundation, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Phoenix Children’s Care Network. It’s meant to help prevent water-related injury and deaths in children 1 to 4 years old.
ASU Professor Diana Bowman, who’s leading the initiative on behalf of ASU, noted drowning is the leading nonmedical cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 in the United States, with Arizona having the second highest drowning rate in the country.
“This is despite amazing efforts by people here in Arizona,” she told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “But it has been a problem, a public health challenge, that we haven’t been able to adequately address to get those numbers down.”
She hopes the new program will help.
Providers in the Phoenix Children’s Care Network will be given an evidence-based education package focused on drowning prevention that’s tailored to a patient’s age and developmental stage.
“We don’t really talk about water safety until we have a tragedy,” Bowman said. “And this partnership is actually really proactive to have families be aware of the risk but not in a way that it scares them from having pools and engaging in swimming.”
She said the educational materials will also include recommendations for swim lessons, pool fencing and constant supervision of toddlers regardless of swimming ability.
There’s also guidance on flotation devices and life jackets. Bowman pointed out that while flotation devices are fun toys in the pool, they’re not a water safety device.
“If you’re looking to have something for your child in terms of putting them in the pool, a Coast Guard-approved life jacket is really what you should be focused on.”
Michael Phelps, who’s the most decorated Olympian in history, said in a statement the statistics surrounding accidental drowning “are alarming.” It’s one of the reasons why he said he started the foundation.
“We want to be proactive in raising awareness and providing educational resources to families,” Phelps stated. “As parents with three young boys and a pool at home, my wife, Nicole, and I want to encourage all families to incorporate water safety as part of their wellness development and/or routine.”
Bowman said she hopes having the Michael Phelps Foundation as a partner will help raise awareness about the program and eventually expand it to other states.
“Our whole goal is trying to prevent families suffering the trauma of a fatal or near-fatal drowning event, and so making this something that goes beyond our community is really important to us,” she said.
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