An Injury and Illness Surveillance Program for Children and Staff: Improving the Safety of Youth Settings


  • Linda E. Erceg
  • Barry A. Garst
  • Gwynn M. Powell
  • Ellen E. Yard


illness, injury, youth programs, survellance, risk management, camp


The prevention of injuries to children and staff is of critical importance to recreation providers. Although program providers often document participant illnesses and injuries, the power of intentionally monitoring and sharing this information has not often been tapped in the recreation field. This article demonstrates how an injury and illness surveillance program was used to reveal patterns of injuries and illnesses within day and resident camps. These patterns suggested that children are less likely to be injured in day and resident camp settings when compared with participation in community-based sports, and, additionally, illustrated an organizing framework for injury and illness prevention that may to useful to other youth program providers. Primary injury topics appeared to be supervision patterns, falling on uneven terrain, and head injuries. Preventative strategies suggest analysis of levels of supervision, footwear policies, and activity-specific head protection. Two significant clusters of illness were identified. One included throat, nose, lung, ear, and eye maladies, while the second was comprised of upper and lower gastrointestinal illnesses, those often associated with what one eats or is exposed to (e.g., Norwalk virus). Proactive approaches to illness management center on maintaining resilience so people are less susceptible to pathogens and implementing practices that minimize the potential that someone will get ill. The innovation of sharing of data in a systematic way proved helpful in understanding illness and injury. The systematic investigation of when, where, and how injuries and illnesses occurred brought to light trends that yielded specific, practical strategies that administrators can implement to improve safety for staff and participants. This new approach to understanding what is happening in youth programs allows for targeted intervention based on real data rather than perceptions of trends. As program administrators work to improve health and safety, understanding the trends related to illness, injury, and proactive management can make a difference in safety improvements.





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