Louisiana State Child Death Review Panel Supports Water Safety Awareness

May 2016 was National Water
Safety Month, and the Louisiana State Child Death Review (CDR) Panel used last month as an opportunity to make drowning prevention education a priority for spring and summer 2016.

Louisiana has the 3rd highest drowning rate in the U. S.,behind only Alaska and Hawaii. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death for Louisiana children ages 1-4 years old (about 12 deaths per year). Of those young children who died:

  • 47% were in a pool, hot tub, bathtub or spa compared to only 26% in natural water such as a lake, river, pond, creek or canal.
  • For 42% of drowning deaths, the most prominent risk factor was related to lack of supervision.
  • 38% of drownings did not have a barrier to water.

Even drownings that do not result in a child’s death can have lifelong consequences. About 45 hospitalizations occur each year due to drowning of children under 15
years of age. These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g. permanent vegetative state).

In order to bolster water safety and drowning prevention efforts around the state, a letter signed by the State Health Officer/Louisiana Department of Health Medical Director, Dr. Jimmy Guidry, was sent to all CDR panel members requesting that they implement one of the suggested actions included in the letter. They were encouraged to ask at least one of their partners to do the same.

The letter promoted several free, readily available resources for water safety, including:

  • suggested social media posts
  • scripted press releases
  • educational materials

The project was wildly successful, with several partners taking action within the first few days of the kick off in May. Partners such as the Louisiana Sheriff’s
Association, Louisiana Attorney General’s office and others took to social media, while others connected with local pool supply companies to promote reduced-cost safety equipment. At the upcoming June CDR meeting, all panel members will discuss the results of their work.

Providers and community leaders should remember that while national water safety month may be over, we still have quite a few warm months ahead of us. We can help protect children from drowning by following the below water safety recommendations:

  • All children should be supervised when in or around water.
  • If you have a pool, make sure that all visiting children are educated about how to stay safe in and around in the pool.
  • Safeguards should be in place for those who cannot swim. Make sure that children who cannot swim wear life jackets.
  • Children should receive swim lessons as early as possible and learn to float on their backs.

If you would like to “make some water safety waves,” you can find suggestions on how to get involved listed in the Water Safety Letter. We encourage you to download and share this letter with your partners and spread the word about water safety and drowning prevention!

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