Member Focus: SOBRASA: Sociedade Brasileira de Salvamento Aquático

Posted in LIFELINE December 2014 - Spanish

We are delighted to welcome the Brazilian Society for Water Rescue to the IMRF family. Here IMRF Trustee and South American regional coordinator Jorge Diena (right) presents Joel Prates, SOBRASA's president, with the all-important plaque.

SOBRASA's main focus is on drowning prevention and it is appropriate that we should feature them in an issue of LIFE LINE highlighting the issue. Dr David Szpilman writes:

Drowning is a major public health problem in Brazil where on average of 20 people die daily, four of them children under 14. Brazil has a very high exposure to aquatic areas used year round, and the one of highest rates of death by drowning in the world. In 2011, drowning was responsible for 6,494 deaths (3.1/100,000 inhabitants) and was the second leading cause of death for those aged 1 to 9.

There has been a significant decrease of 37% in drowning deaths from 1979 to 2010, which can be attributed in large part to preventive programs which have been offered by the Sociedade Brasileira de Salvamento Aquático (SOBRASA).

However, a recent study in Brazil identified the immense disproportion of the problem of fatal drowning in fresh water. This is partly attributable to the increased provision of lifeguards at major ocean venues.

Freshwater venues were responsible for 92% of all deaths, with a high predominance of males aged 15 to 29. [The WHO report notes that, globally, male deaths by drowning outnumber females by two to one.] These deaths usually occur in isolated places in the interior of the country, where the deployment of lifeguards is usually not feasible.

SOBRASA is a non-governmental organization and a Full Member of the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) as well as the IMRF, with 43 directors, experts on prevention, and lifesaving representatives in 24 out of Brazil's 27 states. Our board of directors is composed of professionals who oversee state funded lifeguard services. They meet twice a year. This network includes more than 22,000 lifeguards and health professionals from around the country.

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Preventive education is the most effective action that can be taken to reduce drowning death and injury, but delivering that education is challenging.

For several years since foundation in 1995, SOBRASA has been working efficiently with the concept of engaging the help of non-lifeguard groups, using a strategy of 'teaching the teacher to multiply the prevention message'. Medical students, physical educators and surfers have been receiving classes on aquatic risk management and drowning prevention. We are also starting a preventive action plan targeting primary schools, especially in inland areas where our current preventive information did not effectively reach.

One of our most efficient tools is an ongoing project at schools around the country where we have been using preventive beach and fresh water safety messages presented in two cartoon videos in an effort to spread the prevention message to children in a funny, standard, easy-to-disseminate and interesting way.

The project has four different parts working in unison in 40 minute sessions targeted at children aged 5 to 9 years. A lifeguard visits a primary school class.

He quickly explains his job and the importance of drowning prevention. The cartoon is then shown. All the kids receive a comic book with prevention messages to read and to color in. The comic comes with a refrigerator magnet with safety recommendations aimed partly at parents, thus bringing the message into the home.

Recently we moved forward on a broader prevention campaign to reach all corners of our country, basically using the electronic learning process. The sharing principle of the Internet allows the value of a single prevention project to be multiplied, easily increasing the benefit with a lower cost for all involved. Moreover, internet-based education can be shared on a global level.

SOBRASA has been very active in realizing many different prevention projects. Details of some of these may be found at, where you can also find safety and drowning prevention material downloadable for free.

Contact Info

International Maritime Rescue Federation
50 Allardice Street
AB39 2RA
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0) 1569 767405

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