Race Plays Big Role in Whether 60 % Minority Kids Learn to Swim

Minority kids: Black children and teens drown in swimming pools at rates seven times higher than white children, but a new survey suggests that special swimming programs could make a difference and help save lives.

The Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago survey found that only 25% of Hispanic parents and 28% of Black parents were comfortable with their swimming skills. That’s compared to 56% of white parents.

Disparities: About 33% of Black parents and fewer than 40% of Hispanic parents felt their children were competent swimmers, compared to nearly 60% of white parents.

The problem may span generations: More than 26% of Black parents said they had never learned to swim, and the same was true for more than 32% of Hispanic parents. On the other hand, fewer than 4% of white parents said they’d never learned to swim.

In minority kids about 46% of Black and 47% of Latino children had swimming lessons, compared to 72% of white children.

“Our results underscore that racial and ethnic gaps in swimming competence run in families and that children are less likely to swim when their parents can’t swim,” said senior study author Dr. Michelle Macy, an emergency medicine physician at Lurie Children’s.

“To improve swimming abilities in Black and [Hispanic] communities, we need to address swim comfort and skills for both parents and their children,” Macy said in a hospital news release. “Expanding access to pools and affordable, culturally tailored water safety programs are critically important strategies to help eliminate racial disparities in child drownings.”

The survey used the Voices of Child Health in Chicago Parent Panel. Researchers analyzed responses from almost 1,300 parents of nearly 2,150 children ages four and older.

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