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Interventions associated with drowning prevention in children and adolescents: systematic literature review
  1. Belinda A Wallis1,2,
  2. Kerrianne Watt1,3,
  3. Richard C Franklin1,3,4,
  4. Monica Taylor1,
  5. James W Nixon1,
  6. Roy M Kimble1,2
  1. 1Centre for Children's Burns & Trauma Research, Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute, and The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2Paediatric Burns and Trauma Network, Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  3. 3School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4Royal Life Saving Society Australia, Broadway, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Belinda Wallis, Centre for Children's Burns & Trauma Research, Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland, L/4 RCH Foundation Building, Royal Children's Hospital, Herston, Brisbane, QLD 4029, Australia; b.wallis{at}


Introduction Drowning remains a leading cause of preventable death in children across the world. This systematic review identifies and critically analyses studies of interventions designed to reduce fatal and non-fatal drowning events among children and adolescents or reduce the injury severity incurred by such incidents.

Methods A systematic search was undertaken on literature published between 1980 and 2010 relating to interventions around fatal and non-fatal drowning prevention in children and adolescents 0–19 years of age. Search methods and protocols developed and used by the WHO Global Burden of Disease Injury Expert Group were applied.

Results Seven studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Interventions were categorised into three themes of Education, Swimming Lessons and Water Safety, and Pool Fencing. All are possible effective strategies to prevent children from drowning, particularly young children aged 2–4 years, but very little evidence exists for interventions to reduce drowning in older children and adolescents. There were methodological limitations associated with all studies, so results need to be interpreted in the context of these.

Conclusions Relatively few studies employ rigorous methods and high levels of evidence to assess the impact of interventions designed to reduce drowning. Studies are also limited by lack of consistency in measured outcomes and drowning terminology. Further work is required to establish efficacy of interventions for older children and adolescents. There is a need for rigorous, well-designed studies that use consistent terminology to demonstrate effective prevention solutions.

  • Drowning
  • Children
  • Adolescent
  • Intervention

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