Drowning Is No. 1 Killer of Young Children. U.S. Efforts to Fix It Are Lagging.

Yadira Salcedo was born in Mexico to parents who never knew how to swim. In her childhood, she nearly drowned by walking too deep in her backyard swimming pool.

Salcedo, now a mother of two in Santa Ana, Calif., made sure Ezra, 3, and Ian, 1, never experienced such terror, saying, “Let’s break the cycle. We are doing it,” he said. The family has qualified for a Red Cross Scholarship for a new program that teaches swimming to children who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to learn to swim.

On a recent day, Salcedo and the children climbed the pool at the Salgado Community Center together, using a kickboard and blowing bubbles with Josué, an instructor who speaks a mixture of English and Spanish.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4. Like every July, the death toll could skyrocket this month too, with children drowning meters away from their parents without screaming, writhing, or splashing. Just recently, a 4-year-old drowned in a hotel pool in Texas, a 5-year-old in a river in California, a 6-year-old in a lake in Missouri, and a 10-year-old in a public pool in Indiana. week.

Nevertheless, Call from the United Nations, The United States is one of the only developed nations without a federal plan to deal with the crisis. Three decades of progress in reducing drowning deaths in the country appears to have plateaued, and disparities in deaths among some racial groups are worsening.

“It’s hard to imagine a more preventable cause of death. No one would say, ‘Oh, some people just drown,'” said Associate Professor and Director of Indiana University’s Bloomington Swim Research Institute. says William Ramos of

“It’s time to dig deeper than the sad stats and answer the ‘why’ and the ‘how,'” he says.

If a parent has never learned to swim, there’s an 87 percent chance that their child won’t, says Dr. Sadhika A.I. The cyclical nature of injury and injustice.

“This is anthropology,” Ramos says. “It is not easy to start a new story about water.”

The National Institutes of Health recently announced Call for Research Proposals It examines drowning prevention and writes that “little is known” about what intervention strategies work. CDC said it will conduct a detailed analysis of childhood drowning in some states to better understand the factors.

But epidemiologists point to a range of factors, including shrinking budgets in the recreation sector, that could make closing the gap increasingly difficult. Shortage of national lifeguards And it’s an age of distraction on the pool deck as parents struggle to supervise their kids with laptops and cell phones when working from home.

In the long term, this figure is likely to get worse due to climate change, said Deborah Giracek. drowning researcher at the University of Health Sciences Uniform Service. More children could drown in hurricane floods in Florida, fall into thin ice in Wisconsin, or climb off-limits reservoirs in Yosemite to escape the increasing heat. (Studies show that the rate of drowning increases with each degree rise in the thermometer.)

Although overall drowning deaths are declining, reduced by a third Since 1990 they 16.8 percent increase In 2020 alone, the United States still has more than 4,000 cases a year, according to the CDC, and about a quarter of the deaths are children.Ann Analysis by CDC Black children aged 5 to 9 were 2.6 times more likely to drown in pools than white children, and children aged 10 to 14 were 3.6 times more likely to drown. Disparities also exist across most age groups for Asian and Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Native American, and Alaska Native children.

Socioeconomic factors also play a role. For example, a study on drowning in Harris County, Texas, showed that children in multifamily homes were nearly three times more likely to drown than in single-family homes, and drowned in multifamily swimming pools. Salcedos apartment — 28 times more likely Than a single-family pool.

Salcedo said he often saw children swimming unsupervised in his apartment’s pool, with the gates ajar with water bottles and shoes.

A leading theory to explain inequality goes back half a century to the proliferation of municipal swimming pools after World War II. As these gave way to suburban swimming clubs and middle-class backyard pools, historian Jeff Wiltse wrote in his book: pool history, while white children began learning to swim with private lessons, children from minority families saw public pools dilapidated and swimming budgets slashed. Many of the facilities and educational programs have not been restored.

Black adults, in particular, had negative experiences at water, including stories of families who were barred from public beaches during Jim Crow-era segregation and were brutalized during the consolidation of public pools. reported.

united nations resolution Published in 2021, the World Health Assembly will be held decision To accelerate action this year, we called on all Member States to prioritize the fight against child drowning.both WHO And the American Academy of Pediatrics begged the US government to catch up.

“Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, they all have plans. We don’t,” Ramos said. “The message to Congress is that we need to fix this and it can be done.

Authorities could add swimming to the physical education curriculum or mandate four-sided fences in pool backyards (because the victims are still high). Stray into the pool from the exposed side facing the house). Giracek said he is committed to enacting the bill because he “clearly knows it works”.

Drain covers installed in public pools and spas in honor of former Secretary of State James Baker’s 7-year-old granddaughter Virginia Graham Baker, who drowned after being caught in hot tub drain suction. A federal law was enacted requiring the installation of meet certain standards. Such deaths seemed almost eradicated.

U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan, launched The plan, unveiled last week by a group of nonprofits, is the country’s first attempt to build a roadmap to deal with the crisis. The 99 recommendations for the next decade serve as a solemn guide to navigating the country’s various gaps in research, funding, oversight and parent education, and are enthusiastic about a marginal budget that cannot be met alone. It is compiled by advocacy groups.

Directed by Connie Harvey Swimming 100th anniversary campaign The American Red Cross, along with other experts, recently held a press conference at the Capitol, “to let our leaders know that there is a plan, that there is a plan,” he said.

The only lawmaker present was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat who has long advocated drowning prevention.

Meanwhile, some municipalities have adopted their own interventions.Seattle this summer New initiative Based on a non-profit organization no more underconnects hundreds of low-income and foster children to swimming lessons. Broward County, Florida, which has the highest drowning rate in the state, offers free vouchers. And Santa Anna plans to withdraw more than $800,000 from the Cannabis Public Benefit Fund this year to bring its aquatic program back under its control.

Surrounded by Orange County’s affluent suburbs and nearly 80 percent of its population is Hispanic, the city has historically epitomized racial and economic health disparities. His one of the public pools is 63 years old. But its parks and recreation department recently hired a swim instructor and her 36 new lifeguards. Some of them had to be taught swimming first by a supervisor.

Under the new Santa Ana program, waitress Salcedo and her postal worker husband, who live in a three-generation household, have secured scholarships and lowered the cost of swimming lessons to $15 per child every two weeks. They plan to attend all summer.

Three-year-old Ezra cried on the first day of class. Now, during his “Baby Shark” singalong, he shares facts about hammerhead sharks between strokes. One-year-old Ian has not yet mastered walking on land. Still, he paddled after an orange rubber duck, and his mother, now a good swimmer, kept him afloat.

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