Another summer season is ending. With that comes the time when many camp profes¬sionals 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 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 (see Figure 2), 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

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.

Originally published in the 2013 July/August Camping Magazine