Until recently, pediatricians did not encourage parents to engage their young children in water safety classes. However, there is now limited research that indicates when a child is introduced to water with formal lessons, coupled with a parent education component, parents are actually more vigilant about safety and less likely to believe their children are “drownproof.”
Out of this research is a new water safety prescription program called Water SMART Babies (Safety Measures and Rescue Techniques). It was developed by the Florida Water Safety Taskforce and adopted by the Florida Pediatric Society in 2010. The Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona began to pilot the program in Maricopa this summer and will be taking it countywide this fall. Plans are in the works to introduce the prescription program in Pima County in 2012 and statewide in 2013.
Through Water SMART Babies, pediatricians now have the perfect opportunity to discuss water safety with the parents of their 9- to 12-month old patients. Healthcare Providers write out a prescription for water safety classes. The parents are also given the Water SMART Babies handbook, which includes tips on home water safety, CPR information, and safety device options, such as pool fencing, door and pool alarms. As the child visits the pediatrician in subsequent months, healthcare providers follow up to make sure the family is getting their home equipped with the layers of protection and the child is participating in water safety lessons.