Researchers from the University of Ballarat
used the National Coroners Information System (NCIS) database to investigate
accidental drowning deaths of children aged 0-14 years between July 1, 2000 and
June 30, 2009.
Of the 339 deaths in that period, supervision was ruled out
as a factor in only 29 cases (8.5 per cent), which were the result of events
such as cars being swept off the road during flash flooding or boats
overturning in rough conditions.
"Supervision was identified as a contributing factor in
almost three-quarters (71.7 per cent) of all unintentional cases of child
drowning, although the level of explicit identification of supervision varied
across age groups," lead researcher Ms Lauren Petrass said.
"Indeed, with deeper interrogation of coroners' findings,
absent or inadequate supervision might be associated with as many as 88.8 per
cent of child drownings, because in 58 cases (17.1 per cent), inadequate detail
was provided in text documents to determine whether supervision was a
Police reports ranged in length from one line to two pages,
with some stating only that the child was missing and later found in the pool.
"Lack of detail within reports, or missing documents,
restricts the ability to fully understand incident circumstances and assess the
role of supervision in the drowning death," Ms Petrass said.
"These factors limit the ability to target, design,
implement and evaluate national child drowning prevention strategies."
More detailed records and more recommendations by coroners
could help spread the message about the need to watch children near water.
"Explicit references by coroners to the importance of
supervision in preventing child drowning, along with increased media publicity
about coroners' findings, may contribute to improved caregiver supervision of
children in aquatic settings," Ms Petrass said.
The Medical Journal of Australia
publication of the Australian Medical Association.