"There are striking disparities," said lead researcher Dr. Julie Gilchrist, a medical epidemiologist in the division of unintentional injury prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
thinks these disparities result from many minorities not having been taught basic swimming skills.
"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
"There is evidence that suggests that African Americans lack basic swimming skills at greater numbers than their white or Hispanic counterparts," Gilchrist
Access to swimming pools is one problem.
"But it's also a cultural choice as to how you spend your recreational time and dollars.
I think parents perceive swimming as just another recreational activity, and they may choose soccer or baseball or basketball instead," she
Many parents don't see swimming as a necessary lifesaving skill, Gilchrist
"Actually, learning basic swim skills, such as being able to right yourself in the water, control your breathing, float and swim 25 yards is lifesaving," she
doesn't think learning swimming strokes is as important as learning survival skills.
"As far as reducing these disparities, swim skills would go a long way," she
Parents can find basic swimming programs at local YMCAs and through the Red Cross, Gilchrist
and the AAP support giving kids swim lessons.
These lessons can start as early as the age of 1, Gilchrist
"Swimming is a lifesaving skill -- it's a necessity, it's not a recreation," Gilchrist
In addition to swim skills, she
said, lifeguards, life jackets, fences and bystander CPR are all important in preventing drowning.
SOURCES: Julie Gilchrist, M.D., medical epidemiologist, division of unintentional injury prevention, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; May 16, 2013, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available.