National Drowning Prevention Alliance Symposium Attracts National Water Safety Leadership

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The National Drowning Prevention Alliance Symposium, held in Pittsburgh, PA, on April 25th and 26th, attracted nearly 200 attendees from across the US, Canada, and Europe. The conference theme, "Prevention, Action, and Outreach through a confluence of water safety" emphasized the view that drowning prevention is complex public health issue, requiring a multi-faceted prevention approach.

Drowning is a complex public health issue requiring a multifaceted approach using multiple prevention strategies. That message, the theme of a keynote address by John Malatak, Chief of Program Operations, Boating & Safety Division of the U.S. Coast Guard, reflected the overall focus of the 9th annual symposium of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), which took place in Pittsburgh April 25-26. The event, hosted by Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, attracted nearly 200 attendees from the US, Canada and Europe.

Malatak told the parents, health professionals, first responders, swim and aquatics instructors, boating safety experts, manufacturers, aquatics students and other drowning prevention advocates, “Our job – our responsibility – is to predict, and then alter, the future. We have to think through all of the events, decisions, and circumstances that might lead to a drowning death. We then need to systematically disrupt them – through prevention, action, and outreach.”

Malatak was one of many speakers who emphasized the importance of layers of protection around swimming pools as well as open water bodies. They stressed that supervision is always vital, but that no parent can watch a child, especially an active toddler, 24/7. (The concept of layers of protection is also the subject of a published NDPA paper, which can be found at

Other plenary speakers included renowned aquatics expert Frank Pia, PhD; Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania State Auditor General and gubernatorial candidate; Linda Quan, MD, of Seattle Children’s Hospital, University of Washington School of Medicine; Kathleen Reilly, public affairs specialist for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and Julie Gilchrist, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

A highlight of the symposium was Reilly’s presentation, a preview of the campaign to introduce the educational components of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act. This campaign will be formally launched May 24. Kevin Gipson, mathematical epidemiologist with the CPSC, presented statistics that support the need for this effort.

The 2010 symposium theme, “Prevention, Action, and Outreach through a confluence of water safety," reflected the event location at the junction of three rivers as well as the NDPA’s view that drowning prevention is a complex public health issue which requires a multi-faceted approach to effectively reduce injuries and deaths.

In an awards ceremony during the symposium, Cecilia Duer received the 2010 National Lighthouse Award, the NDPA’s highest honor. Duer, executive director of the National Water Safety Congress since 2002, was selected for her leadership in water safety and drowning prevention.

Additionally, the second annual “Drowning Prevention Summit,” which was organized by the NDPA, took place in conjunction with the event, on the final day of the symposium.

The 2010 event was funded in large part by NDPA sustaining sponsor The Swim for Life Foundation, diamond sponsor D&D Technologies, and numerous other sponsors. The event was co-chaired by Robert (Bob) Ogoreuc, M.Ed, assistant professor of aquatics at Slippery Rock, and NDPA Executive Director Kristin Goffman.

A drowning prevention leadership summit was also held in conjunction with the event. According to NDPA President Kim Tyson, “The CPSC, the CDC and the US Coast Guard all made presentations to summit attendees. We believe this was the first time in history that these three government agencies all presented on the same program, and we are grateful for their participation. Much was accomplished that will help the more than 30 organizations attending the summit to accomplish more through collaboration and communication.”

For more information, contact Kristin Goffman at (951) 659-8600 or visit

Maureen Williams
Communications Manager
(800) 716-0888, ext. 292

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