The overarching theme of the WCDP 2015 was one bridging communities to prevent drowning. Based on the World Health Organization's (WHO) "Global Report on Drowning: Preventing a Leading Killer," we know that 91 percent of drowning deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. The report outlines strategies for what can be done to address these preventable deaths. One of the items included in the "Ten Actions to Prevent Drowning" is to "coordinate drowning prevention efforts with those of other sectors and agendas." This may seem simple at the surface, but it is clear that we must work together with new and ever-evolving partners if we truly want to achieve our goal of zero fatal and non fatal drowning incidents worldwide. We must acknowledge that the traditional approach that we have taken to drowning prevention can be improved upon if we allow collaboration outside of our traditional circles. This means that lifeguards, EMS and rescue agencies, and national and regional lifesaving agencies must look beyond their own walls and collaborate with new partners. These include public health, disaster, healthcare, emergency management, tourism, risk management, climate change, refugee, tourism, human rights, maritime, agricultural, and many others.
Many of those in the wilderness medicine community have ties to these and other sectors that can provide ideas, financing, and other resources to stop drowning. I invite you all to take a fresh look and think outside the box as you interact with these sectors. The report concludes, "Time to act on a preventable killer. Drowning is a leading global killer, particularly among children and young adults. It is preventable but neglected relative to its impact on families, communities, and livelihoods." If you are interested in reading more about the "Ten Actions to Prevent Drowning," the report can be found here.
Though the available evidence on our practices in the drowning community is limited, it is starting to grow. It is an exciting time to be involved in drowning research, prevention, rescue, and treatment. Whether it is in the SAR, lifeguarding, public health, industrial, or other sectors, we must break down barriers to collaboration and commit ourselves to a world free from drowning. Stay safe out there!