In a welcome reverse of previous policy statements, the American Academy of Pediatrics now suggests that it is fine for children as young as 1 year old to receive swimming instruction. In the past, the Academy has said swim classes might give toddlers and parents a false sense of security. But recent research (including a landmark case-control study by Brenner and colleagues) suggests that swimming lesson dramatically reduce the risk of drowning death.
The next step, of course, is to get equitable access to swimming lessons. There is both anecdotal evidence and research (including a paper by Carol C Irwin in press with Injury Prevention) to suggest that children from many ethnic and socio-demographic subgroups are much less likely to learn to swim competently than are their majority peers. That these groups are over-represented in US drowning fatality data is unsurprising but, nevertheless, inexcusable.