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The hallmarks of a healthy camp community: how is your camp positioned?

Another summer season is ending. With that comes the time when many camp professionals not only relax but also review systems with an eye toward change, improvement, and growth. To that end, the Association of Camp Nurses (ACN) recently updated their "Hallmarks of a Healthy Camp Community" (2013). Originally developed by a task force during the 1999 International Camp Health Congress and revised in 2005, the most recent hallmarks not only complement the Healthy Camps initiative but also give direction to the future. They provide a way for camp professionals to globally assess their camp's health profile. Program strengths become apparent, as do program improvement opportunities.

This article introduces the reader to the ten hallmark statements and uses a tool to capture a camp's status with regard to each. This process, done during the more relaxed days of autumn, can provide a sense of the camp's overall health. It will indicate which elements are well positioned and which need improvement. The goal is to seek progress in the quest toward "Healthier Camping for All."

What Is the Healthy Camp Continuum?

A continuum links two things that typically blend into each other so gradually that it is impossible to say where one becomes the next. Figure 1 (see below) presents such an example. The continuum--that blue line stretching from "very unhealthy camp" to "very healthy camp"--links those two points. Without reading any further, consider your camp and place an "X" on the continuum (the line) at the place you think your camp falls between those extremes. This will simply be your best guess, something that's based on what you already know and/or believe about your camp.

What Are the Hallmarks of a Healthy Camp Community? How Does My Camp Reflect Them?

The Hallmarks of a Healthy Camp Community describe camp health in broad terms. They certainly include injury and illness but, more importantly, move beyond that in a way that community health experts believe supports optimal human development (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013). Given the thinking provided by ACN, the hallmarks presented here are explicit to the camp environment. The assumption is that the closer a camp comes to fully meeting each hallmark, the healthier that camp is for both campers and staff.

Let's consider each individual hallmark and how it is reflected by the camp you represent. As you move through the grid (Figure 2 on page 12), think about each statement as it's reflected for campers and staff. Then place an "X" on that hallmark's continuum to mark where your camp exists for that parameter.

Now What?

You've just assessed each hallmark insofar as it's reflected at your camp. Are you satisfied with each? Note those that are strongly evident at your camp and celebrate that success. Consider what made that success possible. What happened to influence that strength? Also note the statements where your camp falls below where you'd like. What strategies might be used to strengthen the statement? Is it possible to build on the success of one hallmark to influence another? These mark program improvement points. Consider validating your perspective by asking others to complete the chart. Does their perception match yours?

Now go back to Figure 1. You placed an "X" on that continuum early on, a mark that reflected where you thought your camp might land on the Healthy Camp Continuum. Consider what you discovered in the process of completing the grid of hallmark statements. Now where would you place that "X"?

In total, this exercise will validate some aspects of your work and indicate points where you may want to invest effort in program improvements. What one selects as an improvement strategy can be as varied as the camps we each represent; the point is to have an understanding of how your camp measures up, determine your satisfaction with that indicator, and make adjustments as you see fit. Your campers and staff will benefit. The healthier they are, the more open they will be to full participation in your camp program. In addition, there's strong likelihood that their camp experience will impact their future. What a wonderful testimony to your efforts!

Author's Note: The Hallmarks of a Healthy Camp Community are guideline statements that must be interpreted by the leaders of each camp. How each statement is reflected will vary from camp to camp and, indeed, celebrates the diversity within our camp community. ACN would appreciate your feedback. Should you want to provide comment, please e-mail or call 218.586.2633.


Association of Camp Nurses (2013). Hallmarks of a healthy camp community. Bemidji, MN: Association of Camp Nurses.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Healthy people 2020. Retrieved from default.aspx.

Linda Ebner Erceg, RN, MS, PHN, is the associate director of Health & Risk Management for Concordia Language Villages and executive director of the Association of Camp Nurses in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Where Would You Place Your Camp on the Healthy Camp Continuum?

Very             Very
Unhealthy        Healthy
Camp             Camp

Figure 2. Where Would You Place Your Camp
on Hallmark Continuums?

Hallmark and Descriptor                         Continuum

I. This camp has espoused values that    Not Deeply   Evident Evident
are evident to others through camp
artifacts, which, in turn, are
congruent with those values.

For example, if the camp values
health, one would see evidence of
that via artifacts that support
health--things like getting enough
sleep and achieving a balance between

active and sedentary play/work for
campers and staff.

II. This camp focuses on placing         Not Deeply   Evident Evident
people in the natural world in a
way that enhances the human condition.

The camp intentionally uses its
natural environment to enhance camper
and staff well-being. There's time to
not only appreciate nature but also
benefit from its ability to improve
the human condition.

III. This camp uses moments of the       Not Deeply   Evident Evident
here-and-now as building tools for
a vision of the future.

Recognizing that campers and staff
become skilled humans only when they
have opportunity to practice skills-such
as making healthy life choices-the
camp provides opportunity for
that skill-building.

IV. This camp partners with others       Not Deeply   Evident Evident
to bridge life at camp with life
in other settings.

Campers and staff move between
camp and their noncamp environments.
The healthy camp has made connections
with those environments in ways that
contribute to the individual's health.

V. This camp has moved beyond mere       Not Deeply   Evident Evident
tolerance of diversity to comfort
with it.

The diverse nature of people--not
only ethnicity but also in life
choices--means that today's campers
and staff are comfortable with those
who are not like them. This camp
provides opportunity to practice
comfort with diversity in a way
that promotes mental, emotional,
and social health.

VI. This camp defines qualified          Not Deeply   Evident Evident
staff in terms of people skills,
especially those associated with
human development, as well as
activity skills.

The health of campers is related
to the ability of staff to work
effectively with them; consequently,
this camp places values upon a
counselor's ability to effectively
interact with campers to complement
their development.

VII. This camp knows the risks and       Not Deeply   Evident Evident
needs of its community members and
facilitates a plan to minimize, if
not eliminate, risks while
addressing needs.

Risk is a potential threat to health.
It is also a potential motivator,
one tied to camper and staff
developmental needs. This camp teaches
campers and staff to assess their
risk readiness, thus addressing needs
in a way that complements health.

VIII. This camp identifies and           Not Deeply   Evident Evident
monitors benchmarks to measure
progress along the Healthy Camp
Continuum under visionary leaders
who facilitate that process.

This camp has identified measurable
outcomes and utilizes them to
monitor the camp's health. It enjoys
leaders who not only recognize value
in health promotion but can also
implement strategies to
accomplish that.

IX. This camp has many more              Not Deeply   Evident Evident
opportunities for campers and
staff than it ever has problems.

The healthy camp capitalizes on
its challenges. It sees them as
opportunities to make a difference
and does so.

X. This camp realizes that               Not Deeply   Evident Evident
sometimes the most therapeutic
intervention is to simply allow
the "magic of camp" to unfold.

There's a tension between directing
or shaping the camp experience and
letting it simply unfold. The
healthy camp not only recognizes
this but also allows the natural
magic of a camp experience to occur.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:RISK MANAGEMENT
Author:Erceg, Linda Ebner
Publication:Camping Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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