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This article follows on from a presentation given by Romano Grandi from Italy’s Società Nazionale di Salvamento (SNS) at the IMRF European Regional Meeting in Dubrovnik in October 2019.

Far too many people drown in Italy every year.

In April 2019, the Italian Higher Institute of Health (the biomedical research institute of the Ministry of Health), organized a Congress on this subject, and to explore the application of the World Health Organization’s ‘Global Report on Drowning – Preventing a Leading Killer’.  

As a result, following the Congress the Italian Ministry of Health has brought together specialists and experts on this subject to establish the ‘Observatory for the development of a national strategy for the prevention of drowning and other incidents in bathing water’.  The Observatory plans to meet every two months and will develop an Italian Water Safety Plan to be rolled out across the country.

The Observatory is divided into six working groups, and its objectives are:

- Improving the data gathered on drowning, non-fatal drowning and plunge incidents.
- Addressing safety on beaches where there is no compulsory lifeguard service.
- Identifying high risk coastal areas and taking measures to manage risk e.g. where there are rip currents.
- Creating an integrated online information system linked to the Ministry of Health, regional websites, media outlets, safety signs on beaches and brochures.
- Developing an information system available for all stakeholders - schools, tour operators, local and local public Institutions.
- Organising events on beaches or other venues to promote safety around water amongst young people, involving the national school net, swimming training centers and Coast Guard Offices.

The Observatory experts have been appointed by the Ministry of Health, the Higher Institute of Health, the Higher Institute for the Research and Protection in Environment, the National Rescue Society of Italy (SNS), the National Group for the Research into the Coastal Environment (university-based researchers), the Italian Coast Guard and the National Association of Italian Municipalities.