Drowning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents in Queensland (Australia).

BMC Public Health

PubMedID: 26286446

Wallis BA, Watt K, Franklin RC, Kimble RM. Drowning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents in Queensland (Australia). BMC Public Health. 2015;15(1):795.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) children are at greater risk of drowning than other children, however little is known about drowning of Indigenous children. This study identifies the previously unpublished incidence and characteristics of fatal and non-fatal drowning in Indigenous children and adolescents.

Retrospective data (Jan 2002-Dec 2008) on fatal and non-fatal drowning events among Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Queensland residents aged 0-19 years were obtained from multiple sources across the continuum of care (pre-hospital; emergency department; admitted patients; fatality) and manually linked. Crude incidence rates for fatal and non-fatal events were calculated using population data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

There were 87 (6.7 % of all events) fatal and non-fatal (combined) Indigenous drowning events yielding a crude Incidence Rate of 16.8/100,000/annum. This is 44 % higher than the incidence rate for Non-Indigenous children. For every fatality, nine others were rescued and sought medical treatment (average 12 per year). There were no significant changes in Indigenous drowning incidents over the study period. Drowning rates were higher for Indigenous females than males. Overall incidence was higher among Indigenous children and adolescents than Non-Indigenous children for every calendar year and age-group (0-4 years; 5-9 years; 10-14 years) except those aged 15-19 years where no drowning events were recorded for males. Location of drowning sites was similar in both populations 0-19 years, however there were slight differences in frequency at each of the locations. The three leading drowning locations for Indigenous 0-19 years olds were pool (48 %), bath (21 %) and natural water (16 %), and for non-Indigenous 0-19 years the leading locations were pool (66 %), natural water (13 %) and bath (12 %) (p?
For every fatal drowning among Indigenous children in Queensland aged 0-19 years there are nine non-fatal events. This previously unreported survival ratio of 9:1 indicates the non-fatal injury burden in Indigenous children aged 0-19 years. Although higher Indigenous drowning rates prevailed, no significant changes over time are concerning. Equally the apparent over-representation of Indigenous adolescent females should be weighed against the absence of drowning among Indigenous male adolescents in the same age group in consecutive years of the study. Further investigation around behaviour and culture may highlight protective factors. Culturally specific prevention strategies which take into account social and demographic indicators identified in this study should be delivered to carers and peers of vulnerable age groups who frequent specific locations. Females, swimming ability, supervision and the young are areas which need to be incorporated into Indigenous-specific interventions for drowning prevention.