Why Drownings Are a Leading Cause of Death among Children


Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 (1), and children account for 1 in 4 drowning deaths. (1) There are significant racial/ethnic disparities in drowning rates. For example, African American children and youth ages 5–19 are 5.5 times more likely to drown in a swimming pool than their white peers, and at ages 11–12, African American children drowned in swimming pools at 10 times the rate of whites. (2) Overall among those ages 29 and younger, American Indians/Alaska Natives were twice as likely, and African Americans 1.4 times as likely, to drown as whites. (2) Swimming skills, use of personal flotation devices, supervision by adults, and proper fencing are among the proven interventions to prevent drownings among children and youth. (3) 

Adam Katchmarchi, Ph.D. addressed the scope of the drowning problem in the U.S., including the stages of children’s development and drowning risks. Dr. Katchmarchi also shared what is known about drowning risks among children with developmental disabilities. Alan Korn, J.D. focused his remarks on known effective interventions to prevent drowning that can be employed by communities and parents. Both speakers also addressed risk and protective factors and why drownings remain a leading cause of injury death among U.S. children. 

1.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2017). Accessed June 3, 2017 from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.

2.    Gilchrist, J., & Parker, E.M. (May 16, 2014). Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Fatal Unintentional Drowning Among Persons Aged ≤29 Years — United States, 1999–2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(19), 421-426. 

3.    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Drowning Prevention. Retrieved April 30, 2016 from https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/drowning/index.html.

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