Dr Amy Peden is one of three Australian health researchers who has received the 2019 Research Action Awards from the Sax Institute for making a real impact to local communities.

Rivers are the leading location for unintentional drownings in Australia – ahead of beaches and swimming pools – but there has been little if any research done in this area before the work of Dr Peden and her colleagues in the global field. Dr Peden’s research explores the hows and whys of unintentional river drownings in Australia. It finds that around 80 per-cent of river drowning victims are male, who seem to be more prone to risky behaviour in and around rivers. Crucially, around 40 per-cent of victims had consumed alcohol before drowning – average blood alcohol rates in drowning victims were around four times the legal limit for driving.

These findings point to a way forward in reducing river drowning deaths, and the risk factors Dr Peden’s research has uncovered have been incorporated into the messaging of Royal Life Saving’s Respect The River awareness campaign. Since the campaign launched, there has been a reduction in river drownings of around 17 per-cent after years of relatively unvarying figures.

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