Inspired by the alarming number of children who drown at home each year – not in pools, but in the bath or other shallow water – a group of concerned celebrities, creative people and doctors have banded together to do something about it.
The group which includes David Wenham, Amanda Keller, Kyle Sandilands, Jackie O, Jabba, Hayden Quinn, Shelley Craft, Georgie Gardner, and Peter Overton has today launched a campaign to raise awareness amongst young parents to combat the issue.
The centerpiece of the campaign is a community service announcement pointing out that infants can drown in only the amount of water it takes to cover both their mouth and nostrils – three or four centimeters, not the 20 most people imagine.
Dr Andrew Weatherall, a critical care specialist working at both the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and CareFlight explains further – “On average, five
Australian children under the age of five die and 47 are hospitalised due to bathtub drowning or near-drowning each year. And one in four of those hospitalized will suffer some permanent injury such as brain damage1.
“And, sadly, we’re talking about very young children here. Most bathtub drowning deaths in Australia are of children less than two years old.”
According to Dr Weatherall, the hazards are surprising. It can happen in a fishpond, a puddle, a nappy bucket, or a dog bowl. The majority of incidents, however, occur when there is an interruption to the bathing routine such as the doorbell or a phone ringing while a parent is bathing a child.
The problem is far more serious than most people realise. Since 2006, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead has seen 88 children after a drowning or near-drowning incident. Nearly one in six of those children has died2.
What’s more, another 21 children have needed to spend time in Westmead’s intensive care unit on life support3.
“Anything we can do to reduce those statistics is worth doing,” said Dr Weatherall.
According to its creators, the campaign is a pure “goodwill” effort, with everyone involved donating their time, services and skills.
Stuart Ghent and Nik Robinson of Sydney advertising agency, Cabana Boys, say they were moved to do something about the issue after a spate of infant drownings and near drownings earlier in the year.
“We are parents ourselves. For a while there, it seemed every time we turned on the news, another kid had drowned. We couldn’t believe it. Then, we discovered just how little it takes.
“We realised that if other parents could see just how little water it takes for a child to drown, they’d be more watchful in the future.
“We’ve been extremely grateful that so many high-profile people have agreed to lend their support.
“But, of course, the ultimate success of the campaign will depend on ordinary people – as we are now relying purely on the power of social media to get the message out.
“Anyone who wants to help make a difference should go tofacebook.com/thismuch to watch the video and then share it with their friends, either by posting it on their own wall, “liking” it or emailing the link.”
The announcement was produced, filmed and edited by ex-series producer of ABC’s Enough Rope, Harley Oliver.
1 Royal Life Saving 2009/2010 National Drowning Report – Bath Time Safety Fact Sheet
2 The Children’s Hospital at Westmead data
3 The Children’s Hospital at Westmead data