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Prevention of drowning in home pools – lessons from Australia

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As an affluent and warm weather country, Australia faced an epidemic of drowning in children under five as the popularity of home pools increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In one state child drowning rose by 6.62 per 100,000 in the five years from 1968. Variation across jurisdictions in actions to regulate domestic pools has resulted in Australia representing an unfortunate natural experiment in interventions to prevent child drowning in pools. Mechanisms adopted by various authorities were analysed in detail to identify factors that contributed to success and failure in regulating domestic pools. Despite early identification of the problem and development of what were later demonstrated to be effective interventions, best practice solutions were not established in any jurisdiction until 2002, 25 years after identification of the problem. Key failures in intervention were found to be: failure to act in a timely way, flawed regulation, blockage of timely action and repeal of effective state regulation under political pressure, and blockage of effective standards. Lessons are identified as: inherent weaknesses in the standard setting process, failure of interventions to address major risk categories, failure to act before the hazard grew, failure to consider lesser interventions for tactical reasons, failure to pay attention to advocates, and the need for continuing effort. The paper argues that analysis of the identification of the problem, development of interventions and implementation of mechanisms of prevention illustrate where systemic changes are required and indicate lessons that should be applied in developing and implementing future interventions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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