Summer months are time for summer fun! We enjoy outdoor barbecues, evening strolls, ice cream, sunrises and sunsets, water sports, swimming or simply splashing around, outdoor fun in the city or countryside, even in our own backyard.
Our interaction with nature, bounty of vegetables and fruit for us to eat, and increased physical activity make this particularly a “healthy” time in most of our yearly repertoires. Children especially love the splish, splash, woosh, of water… and parents or caretakers need to always remember things to keep children safe. But do we know enough? After years of health promotion in magazines, internet, news channels, radio, we generally all know
- drinking enough fluids/replenishing often in hotter months (Parents.com has some great “hydrating” tips in getting the younger ones to drink more, beyond the 6 glasses of water each day recommendation given by the American Pediatrics Association depending),
- the importance of wearing sunscreen and trends show that adult caretakers are indeed applying to their children but are they doing this for themselves?
- “Providing Free UV protection in Boston” — a recent effort in several parks in the greater Boston area in Massachusetts for everyone to wear and have access to sunscreen is commendable (see image from Boston.com) as a pilot social marketing plan. Note it doesn’t cost taxpayers anything as it is a partner project with the Melanoma Foundation of New England.
On swimming and water sports safety do we know enough? One can be health literate about several choices, but when it comes to perception of risk, this is another matter altogether! Studies show what we intuitively and consciously know… men tend to take more physical risks than women (Harris & Jenkins, 2006, University of California, San Diego). My question is whether this also happens with risks taken with their children? Many a mother, aunt, grandmother, babysitter, teacher may be over-cautious about their child’s safety, but from my and others’ experiences it may be that our male counterparts are lagging behind in knowledge of what they need to do to keep children safe. Even the messages we give (consciously or not) to our young boys/men over time?
People may drown due to other health issues (heart attack, fainting spells, use of substances), those be overconfident in their swimming ability, those who go without using life preservers in activities like canoeing, and several other unintentional drownings as documented by the CDC . Worldwide data as tracked by the World Health Organization which estimates that drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional deaths worldwide, and other newsworthy unfortunate drownings which have gone up 35% in the Mediterranean as documented by sources like CNN due to bad weather or faulty boats of immigrants coming to Europe (in escape of war, hopes for a better life).
In the plethora of summer events, take two recent newsworthy incidents (one made local headlines, the other international headlines) leading to unfortunate deaths — a 20-year-old man playing with his friends in a main water reservoir drowns, and a 2-year-old on vacation in Disney, Florida was pulled in by an alligator as he was walking and playing on the side of the man-made lake in a vacation resort leading to the child’s drowning some feet away. As health educators, behaviorists, parents/caretakers we may ask:
- How does perception of risk, and developmental age (particularly of young adults who tend to engage in more sensation-seeking behaviors than others) play a role in these incidents?
- Do we need to ante up our health efforts and ‘talks’ with young people and young parents? This can be MORE discussion about the importance of paying attention to warning signs and looking at more appealing signs (the applied linguists have a lot of work to do in helping interdisciplinary efforts towards behavior change!)
- Understand how our urban development or growth of vacation resorts may affect the nearby ecosystem that may in turn affect us? If for example in the U.S. state of Florida experts indicate that there are indigenous 1.3 million alligators we assume that they are bound to “leak in” to back yards or vacation wetlands — they’re fast and have even been documented climbing up fences very effectively. Also we should NOT feed these animals (wild animals in general) as this encourages them to come interact with us more… at our risk.
Balance is everything, and police or security personnel cannot be at all places at once!
Finally look at the signs, they are there for a reason! Encourage your local municipality and country to take action by placing signs in appropriate places — in countries like Greece where there is a huge problem with vandalism and vandal-style graffiti including annoying stickers and one cannot READ the sign(s), this is particularly problematic.
Your and the COMMUNITY’s Safety Matters!