The World Conference on Drowning Prevention, hosted in Vancouver this week, serves as an opportunity for law-makers, researchers, and lifesaving agencies to come together to discuss policies, research, and practices for reducing drowning.
It also serves as an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on water-safety and physical activity.
As a Nation, we have a great deal of work to do regarding drowning prevention – with roughly five-hundred drowning deaths occurring annually in Canada.
It’s worth noting that drowning does not affect all groups equally – drowning deaths are disproportionately high among immigrant Canadians, Indigenous Canadians, men, and young adults. In Canada, drowning is the number one cause of preventable deaths among children between the ages of one and four.
To reduce the risk of these tragic and largely preventable deaths, Canadians must learn more about proper water safety protocols; such as wearing life-jackets when in a boat, swimming with a buddy, avoiding alcohol consumption around the water, and most importantly, learning to swim.
The majority of drowning deaths occur during recreational activities. With that being said, we do not want Canadians to avoid enjoying the water. In contrary, we encourage Canadians to spend time in the water – both for the sheer fun of swimming and as a great form of physical activity.
Data from across Canada shows that only fifteen per cent of adults and 7 per cent of children and youth are meeting current physical activity guidelines.
Given the seriousness of the issue of drowning and physical activity in Canada, we believe these issues must be dealt with – and that the best way forward is by dealing with both issues simultaneously.
Research has shown that when individuals learn to swim at a young age they significantly reduce their risk of drowning, while simultaneously increasing their likelihood of being lifelong swimmers.
Swimming is a great way of getting active and staying fit, as it is a non-weightbearing form of resistance training and has been shown to improve endurance.
When it comes to building new habits, goal-setting is crucial. With that in mind, we encourage you to set a goal that next National Health and Fitness Day, June 2nd 2018, you will spend part of your day in a pool or lake – swimming safely, with comfort and confidence.
The World Conference on Drowning Prevention may take place for one week of every year, but we believe swimming and water safety should be a year-long priority for all Canadians.
Wendy Schultenkamper is the National Technical Manager of Lifesaving Society Canada.