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8B.003 The value of drowning prevention programs for ‘high-risk’ populations in Australia
  1. Stacey Willcox-Pidgeon1,2,
  2. Richard Franklin1,2,
  3. Peter Leggat2,
  4. Sue Devine2,
  5. Justin Scarr1
  1. 1Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2James Cook University, Townsville, Australia


Context Drowning is a public health challenge worldwide; however, not everyone has access to prevention programs. In Australia, people from migrant backgrounds have been identified as being at greater risk for drowning with 26% of drowning deaths being people born outside of Australia and 81% male. This study explores adult migrant experiences with targeted swimming and water safety programs in Sydney, Australia.

Process A qualitative study using semi-structured focus groups were conducted in November-December 2019 among adults from migrant backgrounds, who had recently completed a subsidised swimming and water safety program. Focus groups were recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.

Outcomes Study participants were female, aged over 25 years, first generation, and living in Australia for ≥10 years. Most were non-swimmers and were fearful of water prior to the program. Key themes were: perceived benefits of the program (health, well-being, social inclusion), motivation for and barriers to participating, addressing community needs, and attitudes toward drowning and water safety.

Conclusion These programs were highly valued by the participants. Recommendations for sustainability and continued participation include: developing policies addressing social determinants (cost, transport, cultural factors); and designing programs specifically for adults with limited swimming experience overcoming a fear of water. Creating mechanisms that enable both women and men from migrant backgrounds to access programs are vital for reducing drowning among this ‘high-risk’ population.

Learning Outcomes While some migrant communities readily engage in programs that provide multiple benefits, the impact on reducing inequalities within drowning will be limited unless broader multi-strategic approaches are undertaken.

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