Holiday camps | Let’s give our youth the summer they deserve

For Quebec families, the arrival of spring often tones with children and teens enrolling in summer camp. However, based on current measures imposed by the Quebec government, only day camps will be able to open in June.

Mark Leble and Earl Robin
Doctors, respectively, President of the Quebec Physicians Association and Director of the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Montreal Children’s Hospital, and more than 70 other locations *

In fact, the holiday camps, which provide accommodation, are still banned from resuming their activities, depriving thousands of young people from enjoying a unique experience in nature, for the second summer in a row. Nevertheless, given the dire consequences of the health crisis on the physical and mental health of children and adolescents, the relaunch of summer camps appears to be more important to us.

While childhood is a stage of life during which socialization and physical activity are essential for the proper development of body and mind, the fallout from the epidemic has instead led to an alarming increase in isolation, sedentary lifestyle, screen time, eating disorders and psychological distress among young people. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, these results are not surprising.

It therefore seems appropriate to remember the many benefits that summer camps provide for children and teenagers. According to a study by the University of Waterloo, camps allow young people to increase their interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, self-confidence, and independence. It has also been shown that attending holiday camp contributes to healthy lifestyles, while campers generally tend to exercise after their stay. On the other hand, teens need a job that gives them purpose and the opportunity to build relationships without technology, which summer camps are ideal for. Finally, camps provide young people, especially those who live in urban areas or from disadvantaged backgrounds, a rare connection with nature.

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Our leaders must therefore be aware that relaunching the holiday camps will have the potential to directly mitigate the most harmful external factors of the epidemic to the health and well-being of our youth.

However, it is essential that this activities resume in a safe manner, considering the associated risks.

Fortunately, the epidemiological situation will evolve in the coming months towards a potentially more favorable context. It is expected that progress in vaccinating vulnerable groups as well as a decrease in new cases during the summer of 2020 will be positive indicators. We also know that the risks of complications from the virus to the health of children and young people are very small. Moreover, the results of a study by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of active camps in 2020 give us hope. This has shown that it is entirely possible to provide a safe environment for young people when camps adopt rigorous risk mitigation strategies.

The development of these measures, however, is a complex process. The latter must take care to prevent the virus from entering the camps and reduce the risk of an internal outbreak of the disease as much as possible. It is therefore imperative that the Quebec government follow in Ontario’s footsteps and articulate its intentions in order to give the camps time to design their security protocols, redesign their facilities and train their personnel.

After 12 months of the pandemic, we believe it is our duty, as a society, to offer our youth the summer they deserve, away from the suffering of the health crisis.

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* Co-signers: Pierre Lavoie, co-founder of Défi Pierre Lavoie; Drs Jill Julian, Pediatric Social Physician, President of the Dr.s Julian. DrReturn Marie Claude Roy, Director of the Developmental Pediatrics Clinic at CHU-Sherbrooke; DrReturn Susan Villancourt, Associate Director, Children’s Emergency, Montreal Children’s Hospital, MUHC; Drs Martin Gignac, Head, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Montreal Children’s Hospital, MUHC; Catherine Froelich, Professor of the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal; Marie-Yves Matteo, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Montreal, Researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine, Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Childhood Obesity; Kevin LeSperance, Epidemiologist, Biochemist and PhD Researcher in Public Health and Epidemiology at CR-CHUM; Drs Jean Sebastian Tremblay Roy is a specialist pediatrician

> See a list of the other two signers

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