Professor Mike Tipton MBE talking

University of Portsmouth physiologist helps organise international summit on drowning prevention

16 October 2023


A University of Portsmouth expert hosted an important online summit last week, in collaboration with the Physiological Society and the International Drowning Researchers’ Alliance (IDRA).

The three-day meeting (Wednesday 11 – Friday 13 October) brought together experts in drowning prevention from both a theory and practice perspective, to ensure that research is converted into action, with the aim of saving lives.

Drowning remains a global pandemic, claiming the lives of more than 236,000 people per year. More than 90 per cent of those drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, and the drowning threat is set to get worse with climate change and rising sea levels.

It has been estimated that between 80 per cent – 90 per cent of all drownings are preventable, highlighting the need for greater education, discussion, and research into drowning in order to curb this threat.

Physiologists are vital in this action against drowning, only by understanding the physiological mechanisms of the drowning process, can we build life-saving interventions. Drowning is a process of respiratory impairment from either submersion or immersion in liquid.

When submersion/immersion happens, vital tissues are unable to get the oxygen they need, leading to hypoxaemia and death if untreated. Within two minutes most victims lose consciousness and within four to six minutes most victims will develop irreversible brain injury. Therefore, early intervention and action is vital.

This online forum brought together physiologists and life-saving experts from around the world who work in both clinical and community settings to share current knowledge and thinking across many aspects of drowning, including: drowning prevention strategies and impact, community involvement and preparedness, innovations in drowning risk assessment and rescue and international perspectives.

Professor Mike Tipton, from the University's School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science and Extreme Environments research group (EEG), led the event.

The meeting offered a real opportunity to share recent research into the physiological and clinical aspects of drowning and convert that knowledge into life-saving action.

Professor Mike Tipton, University's School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science and Extreme Environments research group (EEG)

Professor Tipton, who is also a Trustee of The Physiological Society and Founding Member of IDRA, said: “This was a vital meeting between researchers exploring all aspects of drowning prevention and treatment and the people who are out there saving lives. Only by bringing together these experts do we stand a chance at stemming this global problem.

“The meeting offered a real opportunity to share recent research into the physiological and clinical aspects of drowning and convert that knowledge into life-saving action.”

Earlier this year, the EEG was honoured with the inaugural Excellence in Physiology Award from The Physiological Society. One of the most impactful areas of the team's research lies in their work on drowning prevention. Their efforts have given rise to 'Respect the Water', a national water safety campaign initiated by the RNLI in 2014.

Underpinned by EEG’s findings, the campaign has successfully increased public understanding of the importance of floating as a primary survival behaviour in water-related emergencies.

Float to Live | Professor Mike Tipton

There will be a formal unveiling of the award at the University of Portsmouth on 7 December 2023.

More like this...