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Does teaching children to swim increase exposure to water or risk-taking when in the water? Emerging evidence from Bangladesh
  1. Tom Stefan Mecrow1,
  2. Michael Linnan2,
  3. Aminur Rahman1,
  4. Justin Scarr3,
  5. Saidur Rahman Mashreky4,
  6. Abu Talab4,
  7. A K M Fazlur Rahman4
  1. 1International Drowning Research Centre—Bangladesh (IDRC-B), Dhaka, Bangladesh
  2. 2The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC), Atlanta, USA
  3. 3Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA), Sydney, Australia
  4. 4Centre for Injury Prevention Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB), Dhaka, Bangladesh
  1. Correspondence to Dr Aminur Rahman, International Drowning Research Centre—Bangladesh (IDRC-B), House—B 162, Road—23, New DOHS, Mohakhali, Dhaka 1206, Bangladesh; aminur{at}


Background SwimSafe, a basic swimming and safe rescue curriculum, has been taught to large numbers of children in Bangladesh. Teaching swimming potentially increases risk if it increases water exposure or high-risk practices in water. This study compares water exposure and risk practices for SwimSafe graduates (SS) with children who learned swimming naturally.

Methods Interviewers obtained detailed water exposure histories for the preceding 48 h from 3936 SS aged 6–14 and 3952 age-matched and sex-matched children who had learned swimming naturally. Frequencies of water exposure and water entries for swimming or playing were compared.

Results There were 9741 entries into water among the 7046 participants in the 48 h prior to interview. About one-third (31.2%) had no water entries, one-tenth (10.5%) entered once, half (49.2%) entered twice and a tenth (9.1%) entered three or more times. Proportions of children in each group were similar. About 99.5% of both groups only entered the water for bathing. For those entering to swim or play, the mean number of entries was similar (SS 1.63, natural swimmer (NS) 1.36, p=0.40). Swimming or playing alone in the water was rare (1 SS, 0 NS).

Conclusions Most water exposure for children is for bathing. Less than 1% swam or played in the water during the 48 h recall period (0.6% SS, 0.4% NS). Learning swimming in SwimSafe did not increase water exposure nor did it increase water entry for playing or swimming compared with children who learned to swim naturally.

  • swim learning
  • recreational water exposure
  • SwimSafe
  • child drowning
  • drowning prevention
  • Bangladesh

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