Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

February 2020

AOAP Recommends MAHC Adoption

By Joe Bush

Citing a mishmash of health codes enacted by hundreds of jurisdictions to address swimming safety, the nonprofit Association of Aquatic Professionals (AOAP) board of directors in recently formally endorsed adoption by those bodies of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC).

"Conducted independent of one another, local code updates do not typically engage a national audience to benefit from the latest scientific evidence, best practices, leading experts and consensus," said the AOAP endorsement announcement. "As a result, no two swimming pool and spa environmental health codes are the same, and worse, recreational water illness and drowning rates remain tragically high."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began forming the MAHC in response to statistics on illnesses and drownings such as:

  • Approximately 200,000 people in the United States seek emergency care for injuries associated with swimming pools, while nearly 700 die by drowning.
  • 493 outbreaks in the United States and Puerto Rico associated with treated recreational water, resulting in at least 27,219 cases and eight deaths from 2000 to 2014.
  • According to CDC surveillance, 12.3% of routine inspections of public pools in five states necessitated immediate closure because of at least one violation representing a serious public health threat.
  • There are more than 85 environmental health codes in the United States related to the design, construction and operation of public swimming pools.

"The current redundant system of updating, maintaining, administering and enforcing local swimming pool and spa code represents waste of government resources, misuse of taxpayer dollars and misguided efforts of the facilities, manufacturers, designers, builders and suppliers engaged in updating and complying with inconsistent codes," the AOAP said.

The MAHC's strength, according to the AOAP, is its reliance on data that is up-to-date, and consensus- and science-based, with a goal of protecting public health and supporting facilities, suppliers and jurisdictional authorities.

Addressing facility design, construction and operation, the MAHC has a nonprofit body formed to update the MAHC, the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC). The CMAHC's method for updates includes processing MAHC change requests and advising the CDC on acceptance considerations; advocating for improved health and safety conditions at aquatic facilities; assisting health departments, boards of health, legislatures, the aquatics industry, and other partners, with usage, benefits, interpretation, and implementation of the MAHC; and soliciting, coordinating, and prioritizing MAHC-related research.

The AOAP encouraged its members to contribute to the MAHC.

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