Nov 07, 2014

World Aquatic Health Conference Marks Successful Year

Presentation on aquatic matters highlighted opportunities for the industry

WAHC, World Aquatic Health Conference

The 11th annual World Aquatic Health Conference (WAHC), hosted by the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), was held in Portland, Ore., Oct. 8 to 10. Nearly 400 people representing a record number of states (42) and countries (12) traveled to the conference this year.

Attendees from the U.S., Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, Mexico, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine and the U.K. participated. “The WAHC spotlights advances that can generate growth and curtail contraction for our field and industry,” said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of NSPF. “Helping facilities improve profitability and spotlighting how aquatic activity improves health can foster demand for pools, spas and aquatic facilities. Preventing injury, illness and drowning prevents contraction."

There was a broad diversity of representatives from the aquatic community. Fifty-one percent were new attendees. The conference is tailored for people involved in all areas of aquatics, including aquatic facilities, service providers, consultants, parks and recreation, water parks, manufacturers, academia, associations, builders, community organizations, distributors, hotels, government, health/medical, retail and media.

The conference program included four keynotes and more than 80 seminars on public health codes, recreational water illness (RWI) prevention, facility management, advanced chemistry, drowning prevention and fear, health benefits and new industrial technology. A scientific poster session, lunch roundtables and tabletop displays presented by nonprofit organizations and conference sponsors filled out the two-day event.

Several organizations held board, leadership and committee meetings adjacent to the conference so their leaders could more easily attend, including Water Safety USA, the Portland Area Aquatics Council and Playcore. Just prior to the conference, NSPF hosted an Instructor School and a Certified Pool/Spa Operator certification course. USA Swimming held a Build a Pool Conference, and Genesis 3 conducted a course on basic fluid engineering immediately following the WAHC.

NSPF surveyed WAHC attendees during and after the event. “Many responded that the conference format and content encouraged them to step out of their comfort zones to learn about other areas, outside of their specialty in aquatics,” said Michelle Kavanaugh, conference manager for the WAHC. “It’s this kind of broadening that affirms why at least 50% of attendees come back year after year; no matter where it is located. The WAHC inspires and influences attendees’ thinking and decision making for the future.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and Conference of the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) hosted a workshop on Oct. 8 that encouraged public health, aquatic and other stakeholders to get involved and help shape what the MAHC will look like in the future. More than a third of WAHC attendees also attended the CMAHC open workshop, as well as the WAHC Public Health Code track. Both events were streamed live online.

“It was gratifying to see over 100 people show up in person and over 160 organizations log into the live stream and view the CMAHC meeting. There was good discussion on how we build and operate this fledgling organization to advise the CDC on needed MAHC updates,” said Michael Beach, associate director for healthy water for the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the CDC. “It illustrates the strong backing the MAHC has from both public health and the aquatics industry to keep it up to date with the latest science and best practice."

The Insiders Aquatic Facility Tour hosted the largest group in the history of the event. Attendees visited five unique aquatic facilities: Mt. Hood Community Aquatic Center; Mountain Park Home Owners Assn.; Southwest Community Center indoor pool; Float On; and the Oregon Health & Science University's March Wellness & Fitness Center. Representatives provided an insider view during the five-hour tour, offering five different perspectives on designing an efficient facility. “It was wonderful that 43 people arrived a day early to attend the Insiders View Aquatic Facility tour,” Kavanaugh said. “Everyone agreed the tour was worthwhile; we heard from other WAHC attendees who plan to take the tour next year.”