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Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit

A World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Injuries, Violence and Accident Prevention

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Keyword: drowning

The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit will begin a new research project in rural Bangladesh this year that aims to study the acceptability of using wireless alarm systems in the prevention of drowning. Alain Labrique, assistant professor in the Department of International Health, and Dr. Adnan Hyder, director of the Unit, will lead the six-month project. Dr. Labrique received a Faculty Innovations Fund award from the Bloomberg School to support this research.

Unintentional injuries are the biggest killer of children ages 1-15 in Bangladesh and drowning presents the greatest risk. For children ages 1-4, drowning accounts for 20 percent of childhood mortality and causes 46 child deaths every day.

Water hazards like ponds and rivers surround many homes, so behavioral solutions such as playpens and swimming education have limited effect in the region. The Unit’s work, therefore, will center on studying a new solution – wireless alarm systems. Specifically, Dr. Labrique and Dr. Hyder will test the Safety Turtle from Terrapin Communications to evaluate its acceptability and functionality in rural Bangladesh. The Safety Turtle can be worn around a child’s wrist or ankle and will sound an alarm when immersed in water.

For decades, leaders have struggled to identify effective strategies to prevent drowning in rural, resource-poor settings. The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit is excited to examine whether this technology can offer a new solution to this persistent public health problem.

The study will be performed at the JiVitA research site in Bangladesh and will be maintained by co-investigators from the Johns Hopkins Center for Human Nutrition. For more information about this project, or to inquire about other work in drowning, please contact the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit.

Approximately half a million people die of drowning every year around the globe. More than 97 percent of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. In Matlab, Bangladesh, for example, drowning is the most common cause of death for children aged 1 to 4. To help address this problem, a team of researchers led in part by Dr. Adnan Hyder, director of the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, and David Bishai, senior technical advisor for the Unit, examined verbal autopsy data in Matlab, Bangladesh.

The recently released study, entitled "Childhood drowning and traditional rescue measures: case study from Matlab, Bangladesh," analyzed 10 years of data around drowning deaths in Matlab, including household characteristics, age, gender, time, and also rescue methods attempted. The study is one of the first to publish data on traditional rescue practices performed on drowning children in rural Bangladesh. The findings suggest that interventions should be designed using local information so that we can most effectively reduce childhood drowning. Additionally, community-based resuscitation techniques and emergency medical systems are needed to improve chances for recovery.

To read the full study, please visit this link. If you have any questions about our work in drowning research, please contact the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit.

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