Objective: To compare incidences of drowing for children in the Northern Territory (NT) with those in Queensland and the rest of Australia.
Design: Descriptive, retrospective, population-based analysis of death and hospitalisation data for drowning and near-drowning.
Setting and participants: Children aged 0-14 years resident in Australia from 1983 to 1998.
Main outcome measures: Age-standardised average annual incidence of drowning (1983-1998) and near-drowning (1994-1997) in children aged 0-4 and 5-14 years in the NT, Queensland and the rest of Australia.
Results: The average annual incidence of drowning and near-drowning from 1994 to 1997 for children aged 0-4 years in the NT (67.82 per 100,000) was significantly higher than for Australia (24.45 per 100,000) (incident rate ratio [IRR], 2.77; 95% CI, 1.40-4.91) and for Queensland (32.55 per 100,000) (IRR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.05-3.94). The proportion of children aged 0-4 years drowning or near-drowning in swimming pools from 1994 to 1997 was also significantly higher in the NT (83%) than Australia (64%) (difference, 0.19; 95% CI, 0.086-0.30) and Queensland (65%) (difference, 0.18; 95% Cl, 0.069-0.29). From 1983 to 1998, the incidence of drowning in NT children aged 0-4 years increased by 0.4% per year (IRR, 1.004; 95% Cl, 0.994-1.070), compared with a 5.0% reduction per year (IRR, 0.950; 95% Cl, 0.937-0.963) in Australian children.
Conclusions: The incidences of drowning and near-drowning in the NT are higher than in the rest of Australia and show no significant decrease. The NT should improve its measures for prevention of childhood drowning.