Black Children Drown at Higher Rates

Black Health Matters / Our Health  / Babies, Children & Teens  / Black Children Drown at Higher Rates

Black Children Drown at Higher Rates

Study suggests we are less likely to know basic swimming skills

While we’re worrying about warm weather dangers such as ticks and sunburn, we should add swimming pools to our list of concerns, according to a new study. United States health officials report that black children ages 5 to 19 are more than five times as likely to drown in swimming pools as their white peers.

The reason for this disparity, says lead researcher Julie Gilchrist, M.D., a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is because fewer blacks know how to swim. “A teenager who drowns in a backyard swimming pool that is only 6- or 7-feet deep—that’s just lack of basic swimming skill,” she says.

Though access to pools is seen as part of the problem, researchers also see it as a cultural choice. “Parents perceive swimming as just another recreational activity,” Dr. Gilchrist says, “and they may choose soccer or baseball or basketball instead. Learning basic swim skills, such as being able to right yourself in the water, control your breathing, float and swim 25 yards, is lifesaving.”

Drowning, a major cause of injury-related death in children and young adults, can be reduced by swimming lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics says lessons lower the risk of drowning by 88 percent.

BHM Edit Staff