Camp health services in the state of Michigan

Wilderness Environ Med. Winter 2004;15(4):274-83. doi: 10.1580/1080-6032(2004)015[0274:chsits];2.


Context: Every summer, 10 million campers attend summer camp in the United States. In Michigan, each camp is required to have a camp health officer (CHO) on-site.

Objective: To document the medical training, local emergency medical services and physician support, and off-camp medical facility use of CHOs.

Design: Anonymous institutional review board-approved mail survey of all Michigan CHOs during the summer of 2001.

Results: A total of 129 responses (50% response rate). Forty-seven percent of the CHOs reported caring for campers with significant medical needs. Almost half (45%) of the CHOs were registered nurses; however, 44% of the CHOs had paramedic training or less. Forty percent reported an ambulance response time of more than 10 minutes. Nearly all (97%) reported having a physician who reviewed their standing orders, and yet 75% reported using an acute care facility (emergency department or urgent care) more than half of the time for medical care not on-site. The CHOs reported that a small or rural hospital was the ambulance-receiving hospital 71% of the time. Two of the camps that responded have an automatic external defibrillator, and 22% are planning to buy one.

Conclusions: In Michigan, CHOs have limited training, tend to use emergency department or urgent care facilities as their medical backup, and, in some instances, have prolonged times to definitive care. This preliminary study shows some of the opportunities that exist to improve health care for campers on a local and national level.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Camping / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Utilization Review