The United States Swim School Association (USSSA) recently reviewed the newly published Technical Report on Prevention of Drowning from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and we applaud the continued efforts to increase awareness and examine data to share important strategies to prevent tragedies. For over 30 years, members of USSSA have been advocating learning to swim as one of the important layers of protection to prevent drowning. We fully agree with the statement within the AAP report, “It must be stressed that swimming lessons, in isolation, will not drown-proof a child. The goal of swim lessons is to reduce the risk of drowning but also to promote and prepare for parent-child activities, exercise, fun, and enjoyment of the long process of acquiring aquatic learning and water competency.”
While much of the information shared in this report is well known among the learn to swim community, we need to do more to educate parents and the public on this lifesaving information.
- Children ages 0 to 4 years are still the group with the highest rate of drowning, now at 2.26 per 100,000 population, however the age range in that group most at risk are the 12 to 36 month olds.
- Those with the second greatest rate of drowning are the adolescents at 1.90 per 100,000 among boys 15 to 19 years old.
- Boys account for approximately 75% of childhood drowning victims.
- The Report also examined data to find that drowning rates from 2014 to 2018 are highest among black individuals at 1.79 per 100,000.
- Among people younger than 30, one analysis of 11 years of fatal drowning data showed that American Indian and Alaska native individuals have the highest rate of fatal drowning at 2.57 per 100,000. They have the lowest drowning risk in swimming pools but the highest in natural water settings.
There is even more data to digest and extract from this Report, but it remains that we can all do more to reach and teach underserved populations. The USSSA is proud to partner with the Hope Floats Foundation that offers swim lesson scholarships to connect children living in poverty with high-quality swim lessons providers.
The AAP report shares that learning to swim and water competency is not learned in just a few lessons, but to be effective, swim lessons should provide repeated and progressive training in swim skills and water safety. The report also adds, “In addition to basic swim skills, water competency should include knowledge of local hazards in the aquatic environment, risk judgment and self-assessment of abilities, and recognition and response to a person in distress in the water, including safe rescue and CPR.”
Key evidence-based strategies to prevent drowning remain the same: barriers, supervision, swim lessons, life jackets and CPR, however this report highlights that more education is needed, especially for parents and caregivers, who will most likely be the most immediate layer of protection to prevent drowning. It’s important for caregivers to have a clear understanding of the child’s aquatic abilities and limitations, as well as an understanding that swimming ability is only one part of a multi layered protection plan and that nothing replaces undistracted adult supervision in and around water. Research has shown that with education, caregivers can be better prepared to provide proper supervision. USSSA swim schools members have been working to educate caregivers and are proud to partner with Stop Drowning Now to help get this information in the hands of educators and caregivers.
While the Report has not uncovered any additional data on early instruction, it recognizes that infant swim lessons may be beneficial and points out that medical problems from swimming are rare, treatable, and preventable events. The report also shares, “The World Aquatic Babies and Children Network has published guidelines for the operation of aquatic programs for children younger than 3 years. The guidelines recommend (1) required parental involvement, (2) a fun atmosphere with one-on-one teaching, (3) qualified teachers, (4) warm water to prevent hypothermia, (5) maintenance of water purity, and (6) a limited number of submersions to prevent water ingestion and hyponatremia.” This report also shared that a longitudinal study of children from birth to age 7 to 10 years of age had no increased risk of respiratory symptoms, allergy, or asthma with regular pool exposure and that in fact they showed that their lung function was better.
If you are looking for swim lessons and water safety education for a child in your care, visit www.usswimschools.org/find-a-school to find lessons that embrace the data and best practices shared in the AAP Technical Report.