Urban Swim Initiative Aims to Reduce Drowning Rates Among Detroit Kids

In Michigan, drowning is the No. 2 cause of accidental death for children ages 14 and under. In urban areas like Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids, the numbers are even starker. I recently learned about the Urban Swim Initiative, the Boll Family YMCA’s new program aimed at reducing the drowning rate of minorities in low-income areas.

The goals of the program are two-fold: give participants knowledge of water safety and emergency response, and increase participant’s practical swimming skills. At the conclusion of the program, children are better equipped to appreciate and safely enjoy the social and fitness benefits of aquatic activities.

The CDC and the USA Swimming Foundation report that:

  • Nine people drown each day in the United States.
  • Nearly seven out of 10 African American and Hispanic/Latino children are unable to swim, twice as many their Caucasian counterparts.
  • The drowning rate of African American and Hispanic/Latino children is three times that of white children in the same age range.
  • Only 13 percent of children who come from a non-swimming household learn to swim, and children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at risk for drowning.

In Michigan, it is all about the water. Almost half of the state is comprised of water and, except for Alaska, Michigan has more shoreline than any other state—3,177 miles to be exact. It is one of Michigan’s most unique and marketable qualities as a state and contributes to a thriving tourism industry.

In a state with water everywhere, we need to do a better job of equipping people with basic swim skills and water safety instruction.

I grew up at my local YMCA, learning to swim at a young age and moving on to become a competitive swimmer, lifeguard, swim instructor, etc. Being proficient and comfortable in the water allows me to participate in all kinds of recreational water sports. It also made me vigilant about making sure my own children knew how to swim enough to protect themselves against drowning.

Also, let’s not forget the excellent health benefits of swimming. It provides complete body conditioning and a cardiovascular workout. It works practically all of the muscles in the body (if you do a variety of strokes).

Learning how to swim is not only healthy, it saves lives. Do you know how to swim? When did you learn? If you don’t know how to swim, tell us about it.

If you want more information about the Boll Family YMCA’s urban swim initiative, call (313) 309-9622, or check out the video below.

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