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16-01-2012 | General practice | Article

Pediatric hospitalizations due to drowning-related incidents declining


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MedWire News: The number of pediatric hospitalizations for drowning-related incidents in the USA has halved since 1993, say researchers.

"We found a significant decline in the rate of pediatric drowning hospitalizations, which is consistent with documented decreases in pediatric deaths from drowning," said lead study author Stephen Bowman (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) in a press statement.

"Our findings provide evidence of a true decrease in drowning-related incidents, rather than simply a shift towards more children dying before reaching a hospital."

As reported in Pediatrics, the team used data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (largest, longitudinal inpatient database in the USA) to assess whether the frequency of pediatric (aged 0-19 years) hospitalizations associated with drowning has changed between 1993 and 2008.

Bowman and colleagues found that the estimated annual incidence rate of drowning-related hospitalizations had dropped from 4.7 per 100,000 children in 1993 to 2.4 per 100,000 children in 2008; a reduction of 49%.

The rates decreased in all age groups and in both boys and girls, although the rate of hospitalizations was greater for boys than girls at all time-points. Hospitalization rates were also higher in the West and South compared with the East and North of the country.

The team adds that the rate of fatal drownings also decreased through 1993-2008 from 0.5 to 0.3 deaths per 100,000 children, respectively.

Over the last two decades, public and private efforts to reduce drowning risks in children have been promoted in the US, say the authors, who believe they may account for at least some of the observed reduction in drowning-related hospitalizations.

These initiatives included encouraging pool owners to install four-sided fencing, promotion of widespread use of flotation devices such as inflatable armbands in young children, and public health authority-endorsed swimming lessons for children, as well as targeted injury-prevention schemes for parents and carers of young children focusing on reducing bathtub-drowning incidents through increased vigilance and use of appropriate support devices.

"Continued funding and support for these efforts offer the potential to further reduce drowning hospitalizations in children," said Bowman.

The authors conclude: "Our study provides national estimates of pediatric drowning hospitalizations that can be used as benchmarks to inform drowning prevention efforts and to help target interventions to high-risk areas. Given the significant burden of drowning in both real and human costs, additional monitoring of pediatric drowning is needed."

By Helen Albert

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