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Challenges to young children’s swimming lesson participation in New South Wales, Australia
  1. Edwina Mead1,
  2. Amy E Peden1,
  3. Blake Angell2,
  4. Rona Macniven1
  1. 1School of Population Health, Faculty of Medicine & Health, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. 2The George Insitute of Global Health, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rona Macniven, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; r.macniven{at}


Background Child swimming lessons are a key intervention for drowning prevention; however, participation has been severely affected by COVID-19 restrictions and cost-of-living challenges. To encourage re-engagement, the New South Wales government began providing US$100 swimming lesson vouchers. Parent/carers of eligible preschool-aged children were asked to complete a survey during voucher creation. This study aimed to examine pre-existing challenges to lesson participation among families who had not participated in the preceding 12 months.

Methods Cross-sectional data from parent/carer surveys completed between December 2021 and June 2022 were analysed. Binary logistic models analysed associations between sociodemographic factors and answered affirmatively to one or more challenges to participation from a predefined list.

Results Of 221 218 vouchers created, 79 553 parent/carers (36%) indicated that their child had not participated in swimming lessons in the last 12 months and responded to the question about participation challenges. Parent/carers of children with disabilities or residing in low socioeconomic areas had higher odds of indicating cost was a challenge while regional/remote families had over five times higher odds of indicating swim school availability difficulties. Families speaking a non-English language at home had over 2.5 times higher odds of thinking that their child was too young for swimming lessons, higher odds of thinking swimming lessons were not important and higher odds of indicating that COVID-19 had challenged participation.

Conclusion These findings highlight how different population groups experience challenges to participation in swimming lessons. Alleviating costs and increasing lesson availability is important.

  • Drowning
  • Policy
  • Public Health
  • Cross Sectional Study
  • Child

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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  • X @amyepeden

  • Contributors EM contributed the analysis, reported results and manuscript writing. RM and AEP conceived, supervised the project and contributed to manuscript writing and revisions. BA contributed to manuscript writing and revisions. RM is responsible for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding This study was funded by the New South Wales Government (RG214380).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.