29 August 2003
Swimming pools provide important health and social benefits to disadvantaged communities, finds a study in this week's British Medical Journal (2003; 327:415-419).
Researchers assessed the health and social impact of swimming pools in 2 remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. The salt-water pools were built by the government to improve quality of life and reduce the high rates of ear disease and skin infections among Aboriginal children.
Eighteen months after the pools opened, skin infections declined from 62 per cent to around 20 per cent. Ear disease also declined, although not significantly.
Families were almost unanimous in their support of the pools, reporting that children looked happier and healthier and were learning to swim. School attendance was also encouraged through the ‘no school, no pool’ policy.
Swimming in a salt-water pool provides the equivalent of a nasal and ear washout and cleans the skin, say the authors. In the short-term this is likely to reduce the need for antibiotics, and in the longer term it may help to reduce chronic illnesses, and improve health, educational, and social outcomes in this seriously disadvantaged segment of Australian society, they conclude.
Experts in an accompanying editorial (British Medical Journal 2003; 327: 407-408) welcome these results with guarded optimism. Although swimming pools can be an important health asset, there is no quick fix for the many health problems that occur in remote communities, they write.
Last Reviewed: 29 August 2003