Table 4

First-round: themes addressing differences between drowning prevention and water safety

ThemeParticipant feedback example
Focus—Drowning prevention is a more focused term, and it is a subset of water safetyWhile sometimes used interchangeably, water safety is a broader concept in my opinion. It includes all injuries that can occur on or around an aquatic setting and can include diseases regarding water quality too. Drowning prevention is part of the water safety concept. Respondent 21, research expert
Water safety is promoting safe behaviours in on and around water whereas drowning prevention focuses solely on drowning. Respondent 107, technical expert
I understand many (high-income) governments favour the term as it implies the agenda is broader than 'drowning prevention' in the classic sense. Respondent 17, policy expert
Complexity—Drowning prevention involves more complex systematic approachesWater safety refers to measures taken to ensure that individuals are safe in or around water, including the use of personal flotation devices, swimming lessons, and pool rules. Drowning prevention, on the other hand, specifically focuses on reducing the risk of drowning. This may include water safety measures, but also encompasses other strategies such as drowning response and rescue, drowning risk assessment, and drowning surveillance and research. Respondent 61, policy expert
Water safety is a specific set of strategies/actions to target individuals in their interaction with aquatic environments, whereas drowning prevention may include some specific actions, though is a much more holistic approach to consider the environmental impacts, the public efforts, geographical situation, economics, and resource implications. Respondent 47, research expert
Context—Using drowning prevention can avoid confusion with safe drinking water and sanitation, hygiene (WASH)The term water safety can be confused with ’safe drinking water' depending on the context in which the term water safety is used. I suggest that when using the term ‘water safety’ it should include an additional term/explanatory to separate this from ’safe drinking water'. Especially when considering a multidisciplinary approach with WASH sectors. Respondent 72, policy expert
Within the UN system, ‘water safety’ is strongly linked to the microbiological safety of drinking water, which is linked to the WASH agenda. As a result, I avoid using the term 'water safety' when speaking to UN colleagues. Respondent 17, research expert
Water safety is a broad term that is also used in sanitation approaches and so using it interchangeably with drowning prevention is misleading. Respondent 106, research expert
  • Quotes are in italics.

  • UN, United Nations; WASH, Water and sanitation, hygiene.