Drowning in a high-income developing country in the Middle East: newspapers as an essential resource for injury surveillance

J Sci Med Sport. 2009 Jan;12(1):164-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2007.08.016. Epub 2008 Feb 1.


Despite frequent media accounts of drownings in the United Arab Emirates, little was known about the epidemiology and prevention of such incidents. The research objective was to assess newspapers as a national source on incidence, activities, and risk factors for drowning in this high-income media-rich developing country where official sources do not include sufficient variables for injury prevention. The three main national English and six Arabic newspapers were assessed for electronic retrieval of incidents, which proved impractical; however, the largest English-language paper maintained a clipping file on drowning. Newspaper data, including incidence, activity, and purpose, together with personal, equipment, and environmental risk factors, were compared with Ministry of Health reports for 1998-2002. Incidence from clippings was 0.50drownings/100,000population/year and from Ministry reports, 0.27. Activity such as swimming or boating and purpose of activity such as recreational or occupational were unreported by the Ministry. Activity was reported in 100% of newspaper clippings. Swimming (49%) was the most common activity. The purpose of 17% of cases was classified as occupational. Gender was 100% complete in both sources. In newspaper reports, age was classifiable as child or adult, while the Ministry used age groups. National citizenship was 100% reported by Ministry; 91% of newspaper reports included nationality, providing details for expatriates. Swimming ability was unreported by Ministry, and by newspaper 52%, of whom 73% were non-swimmers. While the newspaper provided information on body of water, mainly ocean and pools, this was unreported by Ministry. Month was unspecified by Ministry, 100% by newspaper. Neither reported safety equipment. The newspaper proved the most useful resource for drowning prevention since there were more incidents and most included key variables; however, Ministry reports provided supplementary information. Newspapers with electronic searching on health terms, including injuries, would be a national asset for surveillance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Drowning / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Newspapers as Topic*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Seawater
  • Swimming / injuries
  • Swimming / statistics & numerical data
  • United Arab Emirates / epidemiology
  • Vital Statistics