Promoting Equity, Social Justice, and Saving Lives with Life Jacket and Clothing Policies

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 4;17(18):6440. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17186440.


Worldwide, diverse racial/ethnic groups have disproportionately higher drowning rates. Learning to swim and wearing life jackets decrease drowning risk. We evaluated aquatic facilities' policies regarding use of life jackets, clothing, and diapers through a lens of social justice, equity, and inclusion to ensure they met the needs of the diverse high-risk groups they serve and changing aquatic activities and programs. Public recreational pools, beach and waterpark facilities in the US and international organizations were surveyed regarding their policies on life jacket use, clothing, and diapers between 2015 and 2016. A total of 562 facilities responded, mostly pools. Almost all facilities allowed wearing life jackets in the shallow end but less so in the deep end, and wearing of T-shirts, shorts, and clothes for modesty reasons. Policies varied most on wearing non-swim clothes. Almost universal requirement of diapers applied to infants only. Respondents' reported themes included cost, access, safety, hygiene and equipment maintenance. Reviewed policies generally reflected facilities' responsiveness to diverse populations' specific needs. However, policy variations around wearing clothing and swim diapers could be costly, confusing, and impede participation in aquatic activities by vulnerable populations, specifically young children and racial and ethnic minorities. Standardization of these policies could assist aquatic facilities and their users. A best-practices-based policy is outlined.

Keywords: aquatics; diverse; drowning; inequities; policy; pools; racial; swim clothing; swimming.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clothing
  • Drowning*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Infant
  • Policy
  • Social Justice*