Association Research Keeps Kids Safe

By: Julie Shoop

American Camp Association's Healthy Camp Study leads to improved safety practices.

Among the staples of summer camp—swimming, sports, outdoor overnights—is the occasional bruise, scrape, or more serious injury. But how often kids get hurt or sick at camp was unknown until recently, when the American Camp Association published the results of its five-year Healthy Camp Study. The effort earned Martinsville, Indiana-based ACA a Summit Award in ASAE's 2012 Power of A competition.

More than 200 day and resident camps participated in the surveillance study from 2006 to 2010, submitting weekly health data. The results were encouraging: Incidence of both injury and illness was extremely low.

Data was consistent enough that ACA started creating new online training programs for camp professionals after the third year of the study, based on participants' experiences with injuries and illnesses.

"Seventy-three percent of camps participating in the study indicated that hand-washing behaviors improved because of their involvement in the study. Almost 60 percent of camp staff said they were more aware of their role in camp healthcare because of the study," says Barry Garst, Ph.D., ACA's director of program development and research application.

In 2011, ACA followed up with its Healthy Camp Education and Monitoring Program, providing members with online professional development opportunities and tools for tracking camper injuries and illnesses. ACA currently offers free membership, so the resources are available to any camp professional.

But Garst says the research process ACA developed may be the most valuable result of the study.

"Over time, the nature of the injury or illness we're dealing with may change, but if you have a credible, reliable data collection process that you can use, that's what's going to be really valuable," he says. "That's what we have now."

Julie Shoop is VP/editor-in-chief of Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop is editor-in-chief of Associations Now in Washington, DC.