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Rural Health Information Hub

Drowning Prevention Models to Prevent Unintentional Injury

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. and remains one of the leading causes of preventable death among children and adolescents ages 1-14. Children and adolescents living in rural areas have higher drowning death rates than those living in urban areas. A drowning incident in rural areas is more likely to occur in a body of water, such as a lake, pond, or irrigation canal.

Factors such as inadequate fencing around water or pools, inconsistent supervision, not using a life jacket, and using drugs and/or alcohol can increase the likelihood of a drowning incident. In rural areas specifically, the following factors may increase drowning risk:

  • Increased access to open water sites such as lakes and rivers
  • Hazards associated with farm and agricultural sites, like stock tanks
  • Fewer opportunities for swimming lessons
  • Longer distances to emergency medical care
  • Socioeconomic status

Drowning is often called a “silent crisis.” All drownings, including open water drownings, are preventable.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends several evidence-based strategies and interventions for drowning prevention. Some of these interventions change the environment, the behaviors of the individual at risk, or the cause of injury. Rural programs may choose to implement multiple interventions for drowning prevention. Experts suggest that drowning prevention is most effective when implementing multiple interventions or using multiple layers of protection.

This toolkit addresses six evidence-based strategies to prevent drowning before the event: