Assessing the knowledge, attitude and practices of hikers on drinking surface water while hiking
Background: Hiking is a popular outdoor activity among British Columbians. Within this group of hikers there is bound to be a wide range of knowledge for what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in terms of health and safety practices while hiking. Assessing hiker’s knowledge, attitude and practices regarding drinking water while hiking can help identify whether education for safe drinking water for hikers is needed to aid in the prevention of waterborne illnesses. In addition, potential barriers to hikers treating their water in the wilderness can be determined, with the goal of being able to reduce these barriers in the future. Methods: The survey was created using Survey Monkey and distributed as an online self-administered survey through Facebook and email. The survey contained 18 questions which consisted of demographic and knowledge, attitude, and practice (KAP) questions regarding drinking surface water while hiking. Chi-square statistical tests were used to analyze the data. Results: Of the 328 participants; 72.7% were female, 26.1% male, 0.6% other and 0.6% preferred not to answer. The distribution of age groups was as follows: 31.4% were 19-30 years old, 27.6% were 31-45 years old, 26.4% were 46-60 years old, 14.0% were 61+ years old, and 0.6% preferred not to answer. This study found that the more outdoor knowledge hikers had, the more often they treated surface water used for drinking water (P=0.000), that hiker’s attitude on how risky they thought drinking untreated surface water was affected how often they treated drinking water from surface water sources (P=0.000). The more advanced hikers had more outdoor knowledge (P=0.001), younger hikers thought that drinking untreated surface water was less risky (P=0.025), post-secondary education did not determine how much outdoor knowledge hikers had (P=0.088) and males treated their water less often than females (P = 0.014). Conclusion: This study identified a need for accessible outdoor education with respect to safe drinking water. This education can help hikers make informed decisions to safeguard their health while hiking. This information can be distributed by outdoor organizations, government organizations, high school health education classes, and integrated into outdoor advertisements.