Benefits of Attending a Summer Camp for Children With Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Abstract

Objectives:

The aim of the present study was to investigate knowledge of pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and perceptions of Camp Gut Busters, an IBD summer camp.

Methods:

The present ethnographic study uses traditional anthropological methods to investigate participants’ knowledge and perceptions of Camp Gut Busters. Data were gathered using in-depth qualitative interviews, participant observation during 4 Camp Gut Busters summer sessions, and attendance records for the summer camp. Participants either attended Camp Gut Busters (campers) or did not attend (noncampers). Campers’ knowledge and perceptions were based on their actual experience at Camp Gut Busters, whereas those of noncampers were based on their expectations of camp.

Results:

Participant responses reference their illness experience with IBD, their struggles of learning to live with a chronic condition, and the benefits of attending a disease-specific camp. Campers addressed notions of identity, the isolation associated with having a potentially stigmatizing chronic condition, therapeutic routines, and awareness of IBD. Noncampers focused on discomfort with IBD and their identity as an individual and child with the disease.

Conclusions:

Pediatric patients with IBD who attended a disease-specific summer camp benefited from the experience. Exposure to peers with similar therapeutic routines and to the range of IBD helped campers build an empathetic social network and introduced a new perspective on their disease. Attending a disease-specific camp helps pediatric patients with IBD in psychosocial adjustment and acquisition of knowledge about their disease. Ultimately, it helps them learn to live with their chronic condition.

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