The First Edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code Is Now Available: What's Next?

By Kunz, Jasen; Beach, Michael | Journal of Environmental Health, December 2014 | Go to article overview

The First Edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code Is Now Available: What's Next?


Kunz, Jasen, Beach, Michael, Journal of Environmental Health


The first edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was released on August 29, 2014, and is now available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Web site (www.cdc.gov/mahc, see Figure 1). The MAHC is a set of free guidelines based on science and best

practices to help jurisdictions reduce outbreaks, drowning, and chemical injuries at public aquatic facilities. The MAHC is a model--not a federal law--that local and state agencies can use to update or implement aquatic facility codes, rules, regulations, guidance, laws, or standards. The MAHC is inclusive; it covers all health and safety issues by providing sample code language and explanatory text addressing design and construction, operation and maintenance, and policies and management. The MAHC is voluntary; jurisdictions can use some, all, or none of the MAHC, and they can change any part of it to suit their needs (see Figure 2).

MAHC development was a collaborative effort, stemming from a 2005 national workshop recommendation, between CDC and more than 140 volunteer experts from across the U.S. These experts included federal, state, and local public health officials; researchers; aquatics sector representatives and associations; building code officials; and certification organizations. The MAHC also went through two rounds of public comment and received more than 4,400 comments from stakeholders.

In the U.S., no federal regulatory agency is responsible for aquatic facilities. Swimming pool programs have long been considered a core function of state or local health departments; 68% have programs that regulate, inspect, or license public swimming pools (National Association of County and City Health Officials, 2013). This has led to significant variability in standards and requirements, as well as time and resources spent in individual jurisdictions as they create and update codes. The MAHC will help local and state agencies to incorporate science and best practices into their codes and pool programs and prevent the duplication of effort.

Expected Impact

Local and state agencies voluntarily adopting key elements of the MAHC are expected to

* prevent injuries, disease transmission, outbreaks, and associated costs;

* reduce pool code violations and imminent health hazard-related closures;

* facilitate use of a systems-based, risk-reduction approach to pool design and operation;

* incorporate science and best practices into pool inspection programs;

* improve data collection through standardized inspection forms and inspector training;

* expand the use of inspection data to improve surveillance and decision making; and

* decrease resources needed for creating and regularly updating pool codes.

What's Next?

CDC recognizes that the MAHC must remain relevant and respond to the latest industry trends and research. To keep the MAHC up to date, an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization, the Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC), was created in 2013 by MAHC stakeholders to manage future MAHC updates. The CMAHC will partner with CDC to collect, assess, and relay national input on MAHC revisions back to CDC for final acceptance. This will keep the MAHC current and up to date with the latest public health issues and aquatics sector advances. CDC encourages people to join and help build the CMAHC into a driving force for improved health, safety, and fun at the nation's public swimming facilities. More information about the CMAHC can be found at www.cmahc.org.

Building Partnerships with Building Officials

To prevent recreational water injury and illnesses, strong codes built on a foundation of science and best practices that avoid conflict with other complementary codes are needed by both public health professionals and building code officials. …

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