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YMCA of the USA Water Safety Awareness Evaluation

An evaluation of the Y-USA’s drowning prevention program to enhance water safety knowledge among children
  • Client
    YMCA of the USA
  • Dates
    January 2023 - October 2023


Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 14, and a serious public health issue in the United States.

Drowning disproportionately affects certain racial and ethnic groups. Black adolescent children, ages 10 to 14 years, are seven times more likely to drown than white children in public pools. Additionally, American Indian and Alaska Native populations have higher drowning death rates than white populations in natural water. Factors that increase the risk of drowning include not being able to swim, having a lack of supervision, and not wearing life jackets, among others. 


Drowning among children is a public health issue that can be prevented through learning basic swimming and water safety skills.

The YMCA of the USA is a leading organization that teaches children of all ages and backgrounds about water safety through its Safety Around Water (SAW) program, focusing on eight swim safety topics such as life jacket use, CPR, pool drain safety, among other relevant topics. YMCA of the USA contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago to evaluate the water safety component of their SAW program called Water Smarts. This project seeks to assess whether the Water Smarts component of the SAW program is achieving its intended goals of improving knowledge and self-efficacy around water safety for children ages 4-14.


This project is currently in the process of collecting and analyzing evaluation data.

Results will be summarized in a final report to YMCA of the USA. In the final report, NORC will describe methods and findings related to the survey and the program’s outcomes. Findings from this project will help YMCA of the USA to improve their course offering and support future participants of these programs. Other benefits include improved water safety among children in the United States, with the goal of reducing drowning-related deaths in this population.

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