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ASU launches water safety education program with Michael Phelps Foundation, Phoenix Children’s

Julie Tenney

A water safety education program to reduce child drowning injury and death is being launched this month by Arizona State University, the Michael Phelps Foundation, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Phoenix Children’s Care Network. This public health partnership will focus on providing expert-driven educational intervention during well-child visits for children 1 to 4 years old.

“Drowning is the leading nonmedical cause of death for children ages 1–4 in the United States, with Arizona having the second highest drowning rate in the country,” said Professor Diana Bowman, who is associate dean for applied research and engagement at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU and is leading the initiative on behalf of ASU. “Since we first initiated an ASU water safety program in 2017, we have made strides in educating Arizonans on how to prevent childhood drowning, but so much more work can be done.

“By now bringing on board the Michael Phelps Foundation, we are deeply honored and encouraged by the many more ways we can make a difference in the future, thanks to their support and the collaboration of all of our partners."

“My sisters and I were first introduced to the pool for water safety, a fact that is often overshadowed by my accomplishments in competitive swimming,” said Michael Phelps, founder of the Michael Phelps Foundation. “The statistics surrounding accidental drowning are alarming, which is one of the reasons I started the foundation in the first place, and we want to be proactive in raising awareness and providing educational resources to families. As parents with three young boys and a pool at home, my wife, Nicole, and I want to encourage all families to incorporate water safety as part of their wellness development and/or routine.”

The program will engage pediatric primary care providers in the Phoenix Children’s Care Network to help highlight and educate families with drowning prevention curriculum that is tailored to the patient’s age and developmental stage. The goal is to empower physicians and nurses to engage in meaningful and concise conversations with caregivers about how children’s behaviors during developmental stages put them at a greater risk for drowning.

“Drowning prevention education is a critical ​and often overlooked part of preventative child health care at the primary care interface with caregivers,” said Dr. Roy Jedeikin, medical director of Phoenix Children’s Care Network. “This collaborative initiative with ASU further confirms the vital population health aspect of drowning prevention.”

Educational materials, including a poster on water safety featuring Bob Bowman, head coach of swimming and diving for Sun Devil Athletics at ASU and Michael Phelps Foundation board member, will share tips on reducing drowning risks, such as the importance of formal swimming lessons and supervising toddlers at all times regardless of swimming ability.

“Swimming is a learned skill and the more we can educate families about the importance of water safety instruction, the broader the impact we can have in helping to reduce accidental drownings,” said Bob Bowman. “Teaching critical skills and strategies can help save lives and have a significant impact on our communities.”

The Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU also has played an integral role in developing the program and educational materials. Judith Karshmer, dean of the college said, “The ability to seamlessly collaborate with colleges and units across the university is what makes ASU able to respond quickly to community needs and make an impact. In this case by bringing these wonderful partners together we’re able to improve health outcomes for children by doing our part to ensure they are safe when they play in or around water.”

Other program materials for pediatric primary care providers will include:

  • A one-hour provider curriculum and a follow-up provider touchstone presentation.
  • Free water safety kits.
  • A water safety poster for display in provider waiting rooms in English and Spanish.
  • Water safety handouts that align with developmental milestones in English and Spanish.
  • A provider social media toolkit.
  • Recorded webinars.

“As pediatricians, our ultimate goal is to help children grow and thrive in a safe environment,” said Dr. Christine Holmes of Desert Shores Pediatrics. “Of all the many things we help educate parents about to keep kids safe, water safety in our state is of utmost importance. This program is so impactful in saving children’s lives!”

A nexus between ASU Law’s Center for Public Health Law and Policy and its Allan “Bud” Selig Sports Law and Business program, the initiative is part of a larger research effort that the law school is undertaking to address water safety specifically, as well as injury prevention more broadly.

“ASU Law constantly strives to make a real-world impact in our community through initiatives like this that directly address pressing public challenges – in this case the health and safety of our children,” Bowman said.

To learn more about the program, visit TheSunDevils.com/WaterSafety.