The majority of the public fails to shower before entering the water at a commercial aquatics facility, suggests widely reported new research.

While 64 percent of parents recognized the importance of not swallowing pool water, only 26 percent think it is very important to shower before entering the water, data from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Poll on Children’s Health indicates. Also, 28 percent believe preventing recreational water illnesses is the responsibility of facility staff. The findings made headlines on national cable networks, including CNN, morning talk shows, and local news.

“Whenever [such] studies can garner media attention, that’s an opportunity to get healthy swimming messages out to the public,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the Centers for Disease Control Healthy Swimming Program. But “the results of this survey indicate we’ve got a long way to go and suggests ... parents aren’t understanding their role.”

RWIs affect about 10,000 individuals annually, and “although there’s been an increase in illnesses, we haven’t really had a good understanding of why,” said lead researcher Matthew Davis, M.D., associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at U-M Medical School, and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. The survey results suggest “there’s something everyone can do now to help keep public pools and waterparks safe.”

Davis and his team survey parents annually and came up with this research topic through public input, a review of various publications (including CDC reports), and professional involvement in the community.

“One of the things we noticed is that there’s always ‘please shower’ signs ... but many times people walk right past,” Davis said.

Survey participants were asked about their waterpark attendance, but Davis believes the data can be extrapolated to all aquatic venues. “Even though we didn’t ask about public pools, I think families behave pretty similarly when it comes to showering or not,” he said.

Operators can help raise awareness by getting creative. Davis says he’s seen messaging on the floor, and Hlavsa suggests providing information on birthday party rental contracts, ticket stubs and the like. Operators also can establish consequences,such as fines for parents whose kids have accidents in the pool.

Data for the survey was collected via a phone survey by Knowledge Network Inc., a nationwide research firm. Respondents are a representative cross-section of the nation.