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Awareness Campaign Launched as a Study Finds that Black Children Are Seven Times More Likely to Drown

By Shola Adenekan

Monday, July 31, 2023.

A Black British Association has started a campaign to create awareness about the alarming rate of drowning among children of African and Caribbean backgrounds. This is in the light of a new research that shows that Black British children are seven times more likely to drown than White Children. The data from the National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) highlights major disparity in drowning rates amongst children of ethnic minority backgrounds when compared to children of White or White British ethnicity. The study shows that  children of African-Caribbean or Black British ethnicity face the greatest risk.

Black Swimming Association

To help address the issue, the Black Swimming Association (BSA) launched a research report, entitled, #OurSwimStory, which engaged 1,400 participants to identify 11 core themes that contribute to these statistics. The organisation has now outlined a series of recommendations based on the data. 


The BSA report, "Our Swim Story," represents the voices and experiences of over 1,400 individuals from Black and Asian communities, offering their views of their water safety knowledge and their own personal experiences. The report also sheds light on the barriers faced by Black and Asian communities when it comes to water safety education, aquatic skills development, and access to swimming facilities. The findings underscore the urgent need for tailored interventions, community engagement, and collaboration to address the disparities in the UK and prevent drowning incidents effectively.


Aquatic Cultures

Differences between the UK and respondents’ home countries, regarding the way in which swimming is taught and the aquatic activities offered, contributed to the disinterest of participants (especially those from Caribbean backgrounds). In addition, some participants highlighted that within families of African, Caribbean and Asian heritage swimming was not viewed as a priority. 


Socio-economic, Structural and Practical Barriers

Over 30% of survey respondents identified finances as a factor that impacted their participation.

A young female of Mixed Black Caribbean origin points to a shortage of opportunities to learn swimming and to have access to swimming pools.


“There are fewer opportunities in those communities” she said, “fewer places to actually go swimming and the cost of swimming is too high for a lot of people from ethnic minority backgrounds, which tend to have much less disposable income compared to white households.” 


Aquatic Activities

Survey respondents were most aware of local opportunities for swimming (90%), water aerobics (32%), canoeing (17%), kayaking (17%), fishing (16%) and rowing (16%).

A Black African young man from Wales said: “We need to improve on accessibility and awareness. For example, no one in my community would know or be aware of canoeing near us.” 

Water Safety Awareness

Almost half of those surveyed did not know how to stay safe in the water​ putting them at risk of drowning.


A Lack of Aquatic Skill

More than a third of survey respondents indicated that improving their aquatic skills would contribute to an increase in participation. However, participants were not deterred from engaging in aquatic activities during holidays abroad, which would place them at significant risk.


Early Experiences

Early experiences in childhood often shaped attitudes toward swimming. Positive early experiences were associated with aquatic participation in adulthood, as well as greater swimming competence and confidence, whereas negative early experiences and disruptions while learning to swim contributed to disengagement.


Fear of the Water: 

44% of survey respondents said they had a fear of water and 34% said they (or someone in their family) had experienced a traumatic aquatic event.


Suggestions for safety and inclusivity

Danielle Obe, chair of the BSA, advises that governmental agencies and local organisations should strive to achieve an aquatically active culture through an inclusive approach to policy planning. Other recommendations include: prioritise addressing aquatic risk factors in all relevant policies and plans; ensure that the lived experiences of ethnically diverse communities are amplified and central to efforts to promote an inclusive and aquatically active culture; clearly define the necessary aquatic capabilities and swimming competencies needed for safe aquatic engagement.

 "it is crucial that we recognise the unequal and inequitable access to water safety knowledge and aquatic skills faced by Black and Asian communities in the UK and that we work together to eliminate these disparities,” she said. “We know that our actions taken today will have a profound and lasting impact on generations to come.”




Awareness Campaign Launched as a Study Finds that Black Children Are Seven Times More Likely to Drow

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