Our feedback on Associated Press story "Pools dry up after draining city budgets"

Here's our letter we wrote to Jeffrey Collins of the Associated Press in response to his pre-Memorial Day story which you can read at this link.  Tell us what you think!



June 9, 2011

Jeffrey Collins
Associated Press
Delivered via Email to: jscollins@ap.org

Dear Jeffrey,

We read your Memorial Day pool story with interest, and wanted to take a few minutes to share some reflections. Your article nicely illustrates the link from warm Americana summers and pools, and the tragedy of pools closing. The contrast you share about how our world has changed and the disconnect between then and now, is one to reflect upon - in the 30’s we built pools during hard times. In the 2010s recession, we are closing them. Importantly, the story highlights the social impact on those people who have no pool to visit this summer, in those communities that are closing their pools. 

Your story does discuss how swimming is a healthy social activity for children and families, keeping kids off the streets and out of trouble.  Yet, you neglected to spotlight that swimming pools around the country play an important role in improving the public health of our population. We live in an aging society that is becoming increasingly sedentary. We are on the verge of a health-care crisis that can debilitate the nation.
The loss of public pools and the impact on public health will not be realized for some time. Swimming pools provide an ideal form of exercise, especially for those who have diabetes, heart disease and other chronic ailments. Additionally, aquatic immersion (not exercise, but immersion) provides cardiac and respiratory exercise.

Yet, these local public pools provide more than recreation and exercise. They provide important access for people to learn the critical life skills of swimming and water safety.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4. An annual average of 383 children who are younger than 15 drowned in pool and spas from 2006 to 2008 and 76 percent of those deaths were to children younger than 5.  Moreover, from 2008 to 2010, hospital emergency departments treated an average of 5,100 submersion-injured children younger than 15 annually in pool or spa related incidents. Seventy-nine percent of these injuries were to children younger than 5, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Many of these public pools serve communities where there is a disproportionate rate of drowning for African American and Hispanic youth. In diverse cities, 6 out of 10 are unable to swim; this is twice the rate for 5-9 year olds versus Caucasian youth.  And the rate of death from drowning is four times higher for African American and Hispanic children in children ages 10-14. The rates, reflective of population counts compared to whites, is shocking and disturbing  because the tragedies are preventable through education and swimming lessons. These are two age groups and demographic that are entirely teachable  but they must have access to swimming pools and lessons.

Launching this summer, USA Swimming of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is conducting Saving Pools Saving Lives Workshops around the country to help city decision makers and school districts learn new solutions to pool closures due to budget deficits. The workshop shares how valuable the pool is to the communities and new models to help make the pools sustainable - to keep the pools open and operating in the black. The workshop is provided as part of a comprehensive water safety and drowning prevention plan. USA Swimming is a partner with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and Pool Safely Campaign.

Thank you for allowing us to give you additional background, Jeffrey. We would encourage you to write a follow up story that explores the drowning prevention, public health, public safety considerations and the Saving Pools Saves Lives workshop efforts that will be happening around the country. Your story has been widely read and picked up by media outlets in the past week. A second story will reach that same audience with a message that provides value and hope for the future, and will help to save lives for generations.

We have copied in representatives from USA Swimming and National Drowning Prevention Alliance who can provide expert information to assist you:  Sue Nelson, USA Swimming and Beverly Payton, Payton Communications for the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.  We  have also attached a document from USA Swimming which further describes their program.

Jeffrey, we look forward to hearing back from you on our feedback!

Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D, CEO, National Swimming Pool Foundation
Laurie Batter, BatterUp! Productions



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Comment by Laurie Batter on June 9, 2011 at 3:56pm
Thanks Gary, agreed, these are important talking points that each aquatic facility manager should have on the tip of their tongues.
Comment by Gary Thill on June 9, 2011 at 3:46pm
This is a great response to a news article that received widespread nationwide coverage. It makes the point that all aquatics professionals need to start making in these challenging times: aquatics is not just about recreation. It's about staying fit. It's about teaching lifelong survival skills. And it's about saving lives. Thanks for posting Laurie, and thanks to Tom for penning this well-thought out and researched response!

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