Violence and Injury Prevention

Non-fatal Drowning Terminology

Since its adoption at the 2002 World Congress on Drowning and subsequent publication in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (Volume 83, Number 11, November 2005, 808-880), the accepted definition of drowning has provided clarity for academic researchers, database administrators, and medical and public health professionals. However, the absence of a uniform understanding and consistent use of the term “non-fatal drowning” results in a lack of precision in data collection, thus hindering research efforts and limiting a full understanding of this global public health problem.

A Working Group was established in 2017 to address this issue and has met on several occasions. The Working Group on Non-fatal Drowning has developed a draft Position Statement which provides a clarification statement and categorization framework that provide coherence and uniformity for the term “non-fatal drowning”.

This Position Statement has been open for public review and comment from early February to 15 March 2019, and is currently being revised on the basis of this public review stage. The version of the Position Statement that was made available for public review is available at the link below, although there is no longer an opportunity to provide a review.

Following the revision in response to the public review stage, the Working Group on Non-fatal Drowning will collaborate with interested partners to pilot test the categorization framework. For pilot testing it will be necessary to use the framework with existing data (e.g hospital admission records, ambulance service records, police records, lifeguard service records etc.). If you have access to a data source having case-based data (i.e. information is available at the level of the individual) on at least 100 non-fatal drownings over a 5 year (or shorter) period and are interested in collaborating on the pilot test, please send an email indicating your interest to Dr David Meddings at