We teach our children how to ride bikes or cross the road safely, but swimming competence as a basic life skill is often overlooked by parents even though many of us live near open water. As a result, approximately 10 drowning deaths occur in the US every day and drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths among children aged 1-4 years old in Canada. However, as May’s webinar speaker Dr. Carol Irwin outlined, death or brain injury as a result of drowning is entirely preventable.

In the study Swimming and Drowning Disparities: Challenges and Solutions, Dr. Irwin and her research team engaged sample groups in six US cities determining where drowning is happening, identifying significant predictor variables to drowning, and uncovering drowning disparities along age, gender, and racial lines. For example the study found that younger children are more likely to drown, males drown at four times the rate of females, and African American youth aged 5-14 years are drowning at three times the rate of their Caucasian peers.

In addressing the issue, focus groups urged an overall community response through the generation of messaging and calls to action from trusted neighbourhood spokespersons; more education and the importance of having partners in the community to develop programs; and support for local free/low cost minority swimming lesson programs and developmental swim teams.

For more information on Dr. Irwin’s work visit www.splashmidsouth.org to read about solutions in action at a Memphis area local minority swimming program.