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Keeping afloat: a case study tracing the emergence of drowning prevention as a health issue in Bangladesh 1999–2017


Background Drowning is a leading cause of child death in Bangladesh. The present study investigated the emergence of drowning reduction as a priority within Bangladesh and the position it currently holds on the national policy agenda.

Methods This case study documents the evolution of policy responses to drowning, reporting on data from semistructured interviews and a document analysis. To identify key factors that have facilitated the prioritisation of drowning prevention, data were synthesised using Shiffman and Smith’s 2007 Policy Prioritisation Framework. Furthermore, an inductive approach was used to identify key themes unique to drowning prevention that were not embedded in the framework.

Results Four key phases of policy development for drowning prevention were distinguishable: (1) identification of issue and the emergence of actor support; (2) enhanced leadership and the accumulation of issue characteristics; (3) the formation of an internal frame and its impact on global support; and (4) enhanced national recognition and supportive global normative factors. Four additional themes unique to the case of drowning were also identified: competing health priorities, limited issue awareness, shift of disease burden to non-communicable diseases and the multisectoral nature of drowning.

Conclusion This study demonstrates that the level of political prioritisation given to drowning prevention has evolved over the last decade and a half. A comprehensive understanding of factors that have elevated the issue onto the policy agenda will ensure future stakeholder engagement activities can be designed to foster deeper and more sustained commitment by key actors and organisations.

  • policy analysis
  • drowning
  • low-middle income country
  • qualitative research
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