Availability of Public Pools in Ohio: Implications for Black/African-American Residents



Ricciuti, Alexandra (Lexi)

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Swimming is an exercise modality that is advantageous for health promotion and disease prevention (e.g., cardiovascular health, weight management, muscle strength), and is one of the most popular, practiced, and recommended forms of physical activity (Tanaka, 2009). Yet, one third of Americans have limited swimming ability (Irwin, Irwin, Ryan, & Drayer, 2009a, 2009b) and approximately 320,000 people die annually from drowning (Dasinger, Brown, & Sawyers, 2020; Gilchrist & Parker, 2014). Unintentional drowning rates are not equal across ethnic and racial population groups and ethnic and racial minority group members have higher drowning rates in comparison with the population as a whole (Golob, Giles, & Rich, 2013). African-American males have the highest drowning rates, 56% higher than Caucasians (Dasinger, Brown, & Sawyers, 2020). Despite the need for Black/African-Americans to learn to swim, there remain a number of cultural, social-economic, and access constraints. Many people of color have a fear of drowning and getting their hair wet (Hoang, Cardinal, & Newhart, 2016; Irwin, Irwin, Ryan, & Drayer, 2009a, 2009b; Norwood, 2010). Social and economic constraints include a cultural history of limited access and inclination to travel to pools, and the cost of getting to the pool or paying to use the pool. To realize the benefits and to reduce the rates of drowning, it is important to ensure that all population groups have access to public pools. Age, sex, and racial differences in swimming participation are conditioned by the availability of pools (Hastings, Zahran, & Cable, 2006). This thesis focused on the availability of public pools among the 88 counties and incorporated jurisdictions of Ohio and implications for Black/African-American residents. . The study utilized secondary data, including the number of public pools from the Ohio Department of Health (n.d.), socio-demographic characteristics from the Bureau of the Census (1994), and to better assess economic circumstances, the number of free or reduced lunches from the State of Ohio. Statistical analyses (e.g., descriptive statistics, bivariate correlations), were used to understand the relationship of public pool availability by socioeconomic subgroups. Based on the results, there are more pools in the more populous counties of Ohio, and people of color comprise a greater proportion of the population in these larger jurisdictions. While the researcher anticipated a greater number of public pools overall, the actual number of pools per county was lower than expected and most public pools were found in incorporated cities. The researcher also expected fewer pools in proximity to populations of color. As a result, the study findings depict widespread availability of pools, but lead to a discussion of implications for better planning, marketing, and recruiting Black/African-Americans to learn to swim in order to lead healthier, safer lives.



Minorities in swimming, Ohio, Swimming, Secondary data