Swim safety advocates, elected officials, public policy and health experts, school officials, families, and community leaders today met to develop a goal-oriented, time-bound Drowning Prevention Action Plan to prevent drowning and improve water safety in greater St. Louis before pool and beach season begins.

It is imperative that every child learns to swim and be safe around any and all bodies of water,” said Dr. Flint W. Fowler, President of the St. Louis Boys & Girls Clubs, who hosted the event. “Drowning is preventable and we should dedicate the resources necessary to ensure that children and teens have access to programs that promote and improve water safety.”

There were 3,709 deaths due to unintentional drowning in the United States in 2017, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control. That same year, there were 82 deaths due to unintentional drowning in Missouri.

“We know that addressing this crisis requires a “whole community” approach that is informed by and reflects the realities specific to individual communities, and that, together, we can make a difference and save lives,” said Karen Cohn, co-founder of The ZAC Foundation. “We’re grateful to the Boys & Girls Club of St. Louis for partnering with us to ensure more families and children in the St. Louis area are safe, comfortable, and capable around water.”

Participating community leaders—who included Megan Ferraro, Executive Director of The ZAC Foundation; Kelvin Adams, Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools; John Hayden, Chief of St. Louis Police Department; Dennis Jenkerson, St. Louis Fire Chief; Tim Helm, CEO of the Gateway Region YMCA; Evelyn Rice-Peebles, Commissioner of Recreation; Greta Todd, Executive Director of the Diversity, Inclusion and Community Affairs at St. Louis Children’s Hospital; Mark Dietrich, Saint Louis County Director of Emergency Management; Cindy Erickson, CEO of the Red Cross of Saint Louis; Lisa McMullin, advocate; Tim Oldenberg, American Red Cross; Sarah Hines, Greater St. Louis Council of Boy Scouts; Melissa Neidermann, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri; and, among others, Tom Sullivan—plan to better understand risks associated with drowning, develop an action plan, and determine goals and measures of success unique to St. Louis. Learnings from the Taskforce Roundtable could also be used to inform the development of a first-ever national drowning prevention strategy.

The Greater St. Louis Drowning Prevention Roundtable was sponsored by The ZAC Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Louis. The Drowning Prevention Taskforce intends to reconvene later this summer.

CONTACT:The ZAC Foundation/Rubenstein: Emily Gest, egest@rubenstein.com, 212-843-8061
Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Louis: Shuntae Shields Ryan, shuntae@bgcstl.org, 314-335-8009