With the summer months approaching, San Diego County officials are providing $500,000 in funding to expand community water safety training, especially in communities of color, where swimming education is often lacking, officials say.
Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional deaths for children ages 1-4, and the second leading cause of death for children under 14, according to information released earlier this month by San Diego County health officials.
Drowning can be prevented through water safety education, swim instruction and learning how to provide CPR with rescue breathing. But swimming is a life skill that is not easily accessible to all area residents, officials caution.
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, 79% of children in households with incomes of less than $50,000 a year have little to no swimming ability. Their research also shows that 64% of African-American, 45% of Hispanic/Latino, and 40% of Caucasian children lack basic life saving water skills.
Joel Shinofield, USA Swimming Foundation managing director of sport development, said there are numerous reasons for disparities in swimming proficiency.
“I think there’s a whole there’s a whole host of reasons, you know, societal, historical, sociological, that all come into play,” Shinofield said. “There are places where there has been a deep and rich diverse history of aquatics in this country.” “And there are places where people who don’t look like me don’t have access, or haven’t had access in the past,” said Shinofield, who is white.
“And so I think that stark difference is sort of where we start; when given an opportunity, when given access, (it) doesn’t really matter what you look like, you can develop proficiency, love and excel in aquatic sports. … When not given the opportunity, it becomes virtually impossible because something as simple as finding water, so you can learn to swim so you can enjoy one of those sports, becomes out of reach.”
Many of the same political and economic forces that shaped communities across the country in terms of limiting opportunities have impacted water safety in these communities, he said.
Addressing disparities in swimming education is why San Diego County is providing $500,000 toward efforts to teach swimming skills in communities around the county. About half the funding is going toward safe swimming instruction, with the remainder used for public awareness campaigning, according to Tim McClain, group communication manager for the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.
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