Context Rivers are the leading drowning location in Australia yet, until recently, had attracted limited research, attention or funding for preventative efforts
Process A description of the research, policy and programmatic changes in the field of river drowning prevention, and the degree to which these outputs were influenced by a mixed methods PhD programme of research embedded within Royal Life Saving.
Analysis The study presents changes in knowledge (11 academic articles, 684 people surveyed and breathalysed, 13,326 river interactions observed) awareness (campaigns, media and PR interventions) and practice (Federal, State and Local Government), as well as medium-term drowning prevention outcomes during the 2015–2019 period. It aims to identify key insights arising from the model of embedded research.
Outcomes Results show; policy impacts including the prioritisation in government funding mechanisms and inputs into local water safety plans (Wagga Wagga City Council Inland Water Safety Management Plan); identifiable changes in awareness programs including Government interventions in boating safety (Transport NSW Old4New lifejacket exchange program) and weather warnings (Bureau of Meteorology), river safety publicity campaigns and media coverage reaching an audience of 5 million people. There was an 18% reduction in fatal river drowning during the period.
Learning Outcomes A programme of research co-designed by PhD student, supervisors and partner organisation can result in increased focus on real-world gaps in knowledge and yield tangible impacts on drowning prevention policy and programs. A PhD by publication model allowed for timely translation of findings and an increase in stakeholder and media interest in the research.
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