Professor and Postgraduate Researchers to present at global water safety conference


Martin Barwood, Professor of Applied Environmental Physiology at Leeds Trinity University, will be speaking at the International Life Saving Federation’s annual World Drowning Prevention Conference (WDPC).


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), drowning has been the cause of over 2.5 million preventable deaths in the last decade. The community impact of just one drowning can be devastating and long-lasting. Recently the United Nations has formed a resolution recognising drowning as a preventable public health issue and this conference brings together the world’s foremost researchers to produce evidence-based interventions to reduce drowning incidence.  

This prestigious event, taking place from Monday 4 to Thursday 7 December at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, Western Australia, is attended by representatives from around the globe, many of whom are from low- and middle-income countries where drowning is a greater issue. The conference encourages multi-sectoral collaboration between researchers, lifesaving and water safety experts, governments, non-government organisations and their partners to reduce drowning frequency. One such initiative has been to recognise and promote a World Drowning Prevention Day, which is held on 25 July each year, where leading prevention measures and activities are promoted to the public.      

Originally from Pontypridd in South Wales and now living in Blyth in the North East of England, Professor Martin Barwood’s research focusses on the psychological and physiological aspects of human health and performance in extreme environments such as cold water which is strongly linked to drowning incidence in the UK. He is based in Leeds Trinity University’s School of Sport and Wellbeing. 

Recently Professor Barwood’s research group has helped identify high-frequency drowning locations in the UK distinguishing between accidental and suicidal drowning. This work is now informing prevention planning, policy development and targeted prevention in these areas. Martin is also a member of the International Researcher Alliance and a Public Health Representative for the National Water Safety Forum.  

Professor Martin Barwood said: “This conference is critical in bringing together key researchers and organisations to reduce the global burden of drowning, a neglected Public Health issue. I am delighted to be accompanied by my Postgraduate Research students (PGRs), Nicola Johnston and Thomas Wild. Thomas is focussing his PhD on ‘Factors influencing human flotation in water as an intervention to inform drowning prevention measures for the general public’ and Nicola is focussed on ‘Defining and characterising environmental risk factors in UK drownings.’ Both are conducting work that aligns the UK to the World Health Organisation drowning prevention implementation guide. We are one of very few UK universities to have Postgraduate Researchers solely focussing their studies on drowning prevention.” 

Professor Barwood is currently supporting a third PGR who is researching drowning prevention in low- and middle-income countries such as Bangladesh and India.

Alex Nunn, Dean of Research at Leeds Trinity University said: “This important conference is a great way for Professor Barwood and his students to share their research and knowledge on a global platform. Martin’s work has played a significant part informing national water safety and drowning prevention policy and strategy to help reduce the number of accidental drowning fatalities year on year.  We place an emphasis on real world impact and developing research collaboration, ensuring that Post-Graduate Researchers are an integral part of our research teams. Martin's passion and leadership of this group is an example of good practice and I look forward to seeing their important work continue into the future." 

The opportunity for our students to travel to Australia to showcase their work is all thanks to Martin whose passion and hard work is evident. I am looking forward to hearing all about the conference when the trio return from their trip.

For more information about Professor Martin Barwood and his work, visit his research page.

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