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Research highlights inadequate supervision in Australian child drownings

Research highlights inadequate supervision in Australian child drownings
May 31, 2011

Recently published research by Lauren Petrass and co-authors from the University of Ballarat, has found that a lack of adequate supervision was a contributing factor in more than 70% of child drowning deaths across Australia.

In an article, 'Lack of caregiver supervision: a contributing factor in Australian unintentional child drowning deaths, 2000-2009', to be published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the authors used the National Coroner's Information System (NCIS) databases to investigate the drowning deaths of Australian children aged 0-14 years between 1st July 2009 and 30th June 2010.

Over this period, a total of 339 deaths occurred, with supervision being ruled out as a factor in only 8.5% of cases (29 deaths). These deaths were as a result of events such as cars being swept off the road during flash flooding or boats overturning in rough conditions.

Petrass explained "supervision was identified as a contributing factor in almost three-quarters (71.7%) of all unintentional cases of child drowning, although the level of explicit identification of supervision varied across age groups."

This number is likely to be even higher as not enough information was included in coronial documents to determine whether supervision was a factor in almost one in five deaths.

Petrass adds "with deeper interrogation of coroners' findings, absent or inadequate supervision might be associated with as many as 88.8% of child drownings, because in 58 cases (17.1%), inadequate details was provided in text documents to determine whether supervision was a contributing factor."

The research recommends the need to improve the standard and consistency of information contained in the death reports within the NCIS as a means of providing more useful information for preventing child drowning deaths.

Petrass also says more recommendations by coroners and increased media publicity about Coroner's findings may contribute to improved caregiver supervision of children in aquatic settings.

The research was also presented at the recent World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2011 held in Danang, Vietnam.

This article will appear in Volume 194, Number 5, pages 228-231 of the Medical Journal of Australia. The full article can be read at 





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