Don't Drink and Drown; embracing peer education and deterrence activities

"Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for young adult males in Australia. On average, four young people (15-24 years) drowning in Western Australia each year and a further 10 are hospitalised. 30% of these incidents are contributed to alcohol with the majority recording a blood alcohol concentration four times the legal drink driving limit. Australian society highly values the water. This mixed with a strong drinking culture has created a fatal concoction that affects families and communities. The Royal Life Saving Society WA responded to this trend by introducing the Don't Drink and Drown Program (DD&D) in 2004. This program attempts to minimise the number of alcohol related drowning deaths in young people by highlighting the dangers of mixing alcohol with aquatic activities through the use of resources, mass media techniques, school presentations and community events. DD&D also has a strong presence at the WA Leaver's Festivals, whereby 10,000 recent high school graduates congregate in high numbers at several “hotspots” around the state in late November. This situation mixes students in high densities with large amounts of alcohol and hot warm weather to create a situation where drinking and swimming becomes a common occurrence. DD&D volunteers, primarily high school graduates and university students attend Leavers and provide celebrants with a range of fun activities that are both fun and educational while delaying drinking for several hours; thus lessening the effects of alcohol intoxication. This peer-to-peer promotion technique at Leavers is unique to the program and can be attributed to both its high recall rate among the target audience and overall success. Keywords - Adolescent health - Addiction, drugs, alcohol, harm reduction - Health promotion - Behaviour change - Injury prevention Key Messages 1. Peer-to-peer promotion techniques are an effective form of health promotion. 2. Programs that focus on deterrence activities rather than abstinence of a risky behaviour are more well received by the target group. 3. Strategies that engage with youth in a fun but educational manner are successful in translating a particular health message. "

Lauren Nimmo

Royal Life Saving Society WA