At the 2023 National Water Safety Conference, we received the most recent update on the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan (USNWSAP) from Steering Committee member Morag Makay, Director of Research representing Safe Kids Worldwide.
Water is all around us – 7% of the territory in the United States is covered in water, and there are nearly 11 million swimming pools nationwide. Unfortunately, without evidence-based and effective strategies, much of the water surrounding us on a daily basis can cause unintentional aquatic injuries and drownings that might result in death or a severe life-changing disability.
The Steering Committee has been working closely to create this Plan, which will address the gaps in water safety research and how to implement solutions to water safety issues throughout the United States.
What is the U.S. National Water Safety Plan?
The World Health Organization recommends that all countries create a Water Safety Plan which addresses the nation’s drowning problem, so creating a Water Safety Plan for the U.S. is a big task!
The Steering Committee that took on this challenge includes a passionate group of stakeholders and influencers in water safety, including groups like the AAP, American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, YMCA of the USA, and many more.
The U.S. National Water Safety Plan is a 10-year plan from 2023-2033, which consists of a four-stage development process:
Stage 1: Establish the scope and framework for supporting development and implementation.
Stage 2: Establish multi-sectoral working groups to develop action recommendations and identify critical evidence gaps with a communication strategy to engage stakeholders.
Stage 3: Obtain stakeholder feedback and convene a high-level expert panel to finalize the Plan.
Step 4: Launch US National Water Safety Action Plan with guidance and tools to support the implementation.
Specifically, the USNWSAP focuses on evidence-based strategies and data, along with infrastructure to support the implementation of these recommendations:
- Data/Public Health Surveillance
- Life Jackets/Personal Flotation Devices and Other Flotation
- Water Safety/Water Competency/Swim Lessons
- Barriers/Entrapment and Electrical Safety
The Steering Committee developed these strategies with high regard for values like closely following evidence and evaluation, equity, collaboration, and the local context to which water safety and drowning prevention apply.
They started with the idea of making the USNWSAP a “model-base,” asking questions like “What should a model Water Safety State, Water Safety County, Water Safety City/Community look like?” and “What national level action would support efforts at other levels and increase equity and likelihood of success across the country?”
After going through the situational analysis phase of planning, the question then changed to “How can we engage and support subnational jurisdictions in developing evidence-informed, context-specific water safety plans?”
Recent Progress on the USNWSAP :
For the Steering Committee to begin forming the Plan further, they needed to develop further resources and tools.
By doing so, they were able to:
- Conduct 100+ expert review recommendations and stakeholder surveys.
- Hold Blue Ribbon Panel Meetings (Dec 2022 and Feb 2023) to review 23 recommendations, looking at the national implications and long-term needs of water safety and cross-cutting issues like:
- The balance between aspiration and practicality
- Addressing Equity
- Stakeholder engagement
- Hold final reviews of recommendations and draft the initial plan document.
- Develop guidance on situational analysis by convening relevant stakeholders (e.g., aquatics, public health, healthcare, education, government, first responders, and child safety coalitions) to collect, review and discuss:
- Prevalence of drowning and groups at high risk for drowning
- When, where, and the circumstances under which fatal and non-fatal drownings occur
- Aquatic environments, including specific hazards
- The existence/absence of prevention/response efforts + resources to support prevention
With these formations, the Steering Committee can formally begin launch planning with anticipated goals for the future.
Anticipated Goals for 2023 & 2024:
The latest U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan update includes several anticipated goals, especially in 2023.
Anticipated Deliverables for Spring/Summer of 2023:
- U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan Document
- U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan implications for the national minimum standards, model laws, and advocacy toolkits
- Providing resources with comprehensive guidance on doing a situational analysis to support an action plan (Step 1)
Anticipated Deliverables for Summer/Fall of 2023:
- Resource providing stepwise guidance on action plan development (Step 2)
- Online resource providing details on each recommendation to facilitate selection and implementation
- Research agenda addressing identified gaps (Summer 2023)
How You Can Get Involved With the US National Water Safety Action Plan:
While the Steering Committee has been formed to guide the development of the Plan, it still takes all of us to create and execute the precautions needed to transform water safety for now and future generations to come.
You can get involved by:
- Assisting by actively promoting and communicating the work being done for the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan.
- Initiate, facilitate, and participate in state, county, or local action planning.
- Lead and participate in developing and communicating national water safety implications with guidance and resources.
- Support advocacy efforts through funding, legislation, and policy.
- Undertake research addressing identified evidence gaps in water safety and drowning prevention.
Drowning is preventable, but prevention wouldn’t be possible without those who are passionate and willing to learn and engage in simple actions to keep loved ones safe.
For more information about the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and to learn more about how you can make a difference in drowning prevention, visit https://ndpa.org/support-ndpa/.