Childhood Drowning Numbers Falling!

Updated: Apr 6, 2019

Is the number of national childhood (under age 4) drownings falling??

We think so!

Last fall, I decided to do a statistical analysis of the last 10 years of drowning data for a research study in a master's level Quality Engineering class (don't fall asleep on me yet). I am very thankful to Mick Nelson of USA Swimming for collecting this data and sharing so freely.

My goal was to analyze the data for children aged four and under. I chose this age group because drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 - 4. I had also been listening to the buzz in the "drowning prevention" industry that the numbers were falling and we were seeing a downward trend. I wanted to verify this.

So, I decided to dive into the numbers and look at them via a statistical analysis approach. This involves using statistical tests; like the one way ANOVA, Tukey Pairwise Comparison, and Krustal Wallis. The purpose was to determine if there was a statically relevant difference in the mean number of drownings within that timeframe. Meaning: Just because we can plot the data in excel and it appears to have a downward trend-line.... is this is a trend-line we can trust? Or, is this a momentary oscillation in the mean and it is not actually statistically relevant (still within acceptable standard deviation).

Okay, so that is where I will leave my statistics explanation. My point is this: USA Swimming recently released data for January through March of 2019. I went back to look at these three months for the previous 10 years. And what I have found is startling. The average (arithmetic mean) total number of drowning deaths in children under age 4 from January through March in the years 2009 to 2018 is 45.4 children. The mean from January through March of 2019 is 9.5 children!

Number of Childhood Drownings (children under age 4) vs. years 2009 - 2019

Now, without more data (just because that is how statistics work), we can't claim this is statistically relevant, yet. But I can tell you that this is unprecedented! And we will raise the flag of victory against this epidemic. No, the numbers are not zero nationally, so we are still fighting. But some states are trending that direction. The Department of Children and Families recently released their numbers stating that ZERO drownings occurred in the state of Florida for February and March. This is amazing! You see, the states with the highest numbers of childhood drownings are consistently Florida, Nevada, California and Texas. So, for one of the top four states to report zero drownings for two months, is remarkable!

While it is impossible to determine an assignable cause (the reason) for this apparent reduction in numbers of the national childhood drowning epidemic, we think we can point to some major influences in the past ten months that have been unprecedented.

In August 2018, we began the groundwork for PPCD. Our goal was to unify existing drowning prevention nonprofits, empower parents, educate our communities, and provide drowning prevention plans for the medical community. We know we are not solely responsible for this reduction in drowning numbers, but we would like to think we are a part the change. We would like to think that YOU are a part of this change.

Emmy Miller and Levi Hughes lost their lives to drowning on the same day in June 2018. Their parents joined forces and tirelessly lobbied the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), and in March of 2019 the AAP policy statement changed. They are recognizing that childhood drowning is an epidemic, that this is preventable and that they (pediatricians) can be the change.

Going back to Quality Engineering (sorry), in order to make a relevant change one must first determine the "assignable cause." Once you do that, you can alter the process. I would like to think that we are stumbling upon that assignable cause for drowning prevention and we are seeing the process change. Maybe the way we are "cracking the code" is by getting this message to parents in a way that is more relevant and relatable. We would like to think that the medical community is recognizing childhood drowning as the epidemic it is and that they are taking action and creating drowning prevention plans for their patients.

Layers of Protection

We pray this is the start of a movement, and the end of childhood drowning. And when I use the words "we" I mean you, too. I am talking about ALL the drowning prevention non-profits, all the parents who have lost children, the companies in the industry like pool fences, submersion alarms, and swim instructors.... Everyone is becoming so vocal and we at PPCD are amazed by you!

Let's keep shouting about the layers of protection needed to keep little ones safe around the water!

We can do this together, join fight!

Author: Carmen Glasser

Ocean Engineering, M.S.

Co-founder Swim Safe Forever

Team Member of PPCD

Master Instructor, ISR

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