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Public HealthPreventing Drowning

Preventing Drowning

Drowning is the third leading cause of death by unintentional injury worldwide, claiming about 236,000 lives each year. Over 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with children under the age of five being at highest risk. The Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative to Prevent Drowning supports evidence-based activities in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Uganda, the United States, and Viet Nam including supervision of young children in childcare sites, survival swimming instruction to children ages 6-15, and enhanced data collection.

Over 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with children under the age of five being at highest risk.

Since the program began working in Bangladesh in 2012, Bloomberg Philanthropies has expanded work to identify a cost-effective set of approaches to drowning prevention interventions that can be scaled up in other low- and middle-income countries.

In February 2022, the Government of Bangladesh approved a $32 million, three-year program to reduce drowning among children throughout the country. As part of the program, the government will take over the 2,500 childcare sites established and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies since 2012, and will expand the program by adding an additional 5,500 childcare sites to provide supervision to 200,000 children ages 1-5. Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide technical assistance to the government in the scale up and implementation of the 8,000 childcare sites.

To tackle specific causes of drowning at the local level in particular countries, Bloomberg Philanthropies has also launched tailored efforts in Ghana, India, Uganda, the United States, and Viet Nam. The program has also supported production of the first-ever “Global Report on Drowning,” published by the World Health Organization and the accompanying report published in 2017, “Preventing Drowning: An Implementation Guide.”

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1-4; studies show that most of these drowning deaths occur in small bodies of water within 20 yards of the home, particularly during hours when children go unsupervised. In response, Bloomberg Philanthropies funded the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to implement a two-year demonstration study evaluating potentially effective drowning prevention interventions like establishing community childcare centers and playpens for children under 5 years old. Based on the study’s results, Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting community childcare for more than 50,000 children across the country. Bloomberg Philanthropies will continue to provide technical assistance to the government in the scale up and implementation going forward.

Bloomberg Philanthropies partners with Synergos, Johns Hopkins University, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, and the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh in this work.

Video

Drowning in the Delta: Preventing Childhood Drowning in Bangladesh

Ghana

In partnership with the CDC Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Bloomberg Philanthropies supported a survey that estimated that 1,360 people died from drowning each year between 2019-2021 in Ghana. As a result of this effort, Bloomberg Philanthropies will support targeted interventions based on the data, including survival swim instruction.

India

Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting a statewide study in West Bengal to detail the burden and circumstances of drowning, which is a leading cause of death among children, and use the study’s findings to implement and measure the impact of interventions.

Uganda

Bloomberg Philanthropies funded a study by the CDC Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Makerere University to better understand the circumstances of drowning. The study estimates 2,940 drowning deaths occur each year in Uganda and found that young adult males in lakeside districts are most at risk.  Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting interventions that could reduce drowning among fishermen by raising awareness of risks, developing and disseminating locally made floatation devices, and providing survival swim instruction. This work will serve as a model for other African countries to follow.

United States

The U.S. reports over 4,500 drowning deaths each year and it is the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old. Bloomberg Philanthropies is supporting the CDC Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work in 10 high-burden states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma and Texas – to provide instruction of basic swim and water safety skills in the most affected populations, strengthen data and better understand the circumstances of drowning incidents, and review state-based legislation and policies that can prevent drowning.

Viet Nam

Since 2019, together with partners, Bloomberg Philanthropies has helped the government of Viet Nam to provide survival swimming classes to children in the highest-burden districts and will continue to do so through 2025. More than 28,000 children across 13 provinces have passed a survival swimming course to date, and recent government commitments will help provide survival swim training to an additional 80,000 children across 17 provinces.

Top photo: Children in Matlab, Bangladesh walk to their new community childcare centers, part of a Bloomberg supported Johns Hopkins University study to prevent drownings.

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