Objective: To describe differences in the risk of drowning of young children (under 10 years) in the Netherlands according to ethnicity and relevant trends since 996.
Method: We analysed the causes of death data for all 266 children aged 0 to 10 years who died of drowning between 1996 and 2005. Information for the cause of death was obtained from the cause of death data of Statistics Netherlands. Data about the size and composition of the population at risk (age, sex and ethnicity) were obtained from the municipal population registers.
Results: Young children's risk of drowning has decreased by about one-third since 1996. This decrease took place among native Dutch children and children of the major ethnic groups, notably Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese. However for children of recently immigrated parents of non-Western ethnicity, mainly asylum seekers, the risk of drowning was 4 to 8 times higher than that of native children aged 3 to 10 years.
Conclusion: Timely health education directed at newly arrived families with children could be an important measure to help them cope with the hazards of living in a water-rich environment such as the Netherlands. The education should point out the necessity of increased supervision of the youngest children and improved swimming skills for the slightly older ones.