(WSBERO/Geneva) – The European summer season is here. Time for many Scout Groups to pack their gear and go on camp! For many it will be a small Group camp, others will perhaps attend a district or county camp and yet others might be lucky enough to participate in a regional or national Jamboree, where they will meet lots of new friends from many different countries.

Apart from an exciting and surely memorable programme and an innovative menu plan the camp staff will have spent some time to review and finalise the health and safety plan. Relatively easy for a Group camp of 30 to 50 Scouts, and a little more complex for a regional camp with 3000 participants or more. But imagine 40000 Scouts and their Leaders coming together from all around the world to stay under canvas for twelve nights! That’s what happened two years ago in Sweden at the 22nd World Scout Jamboree.

We have spoken with Dr. Ib Jammer, medical doctor at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, who was part of the volunteer team running the Jamboree’s Medical Section. Ib and his team have just published their findings in a scientific journal (where you can find a lot of interesting additional details).

Aerial View of the 22nd World Scout Jamboree (Sweden 2011)

Aerial View of the 22nd World Scout Jamboree (Sweden 2011)

Those of us who were at the Jamboree in Sweden two years ago will probably remember this vast sea of uncountable tents and the white dining shelters spread across the filed like little flowers. Two square kilometres and as many habitants as an average small town in Sweden.

How did your personal Jamboree adventure begin?

We started our planning for the Medical Section right after the 2007 Jamboree, which some of us had attended in order to get an idea of what we might expect. We agreed  to have a strategically placed main Medical Section and three Health Centres for basic health care across the camp field. Additionally we needed an Emergency Response and Transport Team ready to intervene 24h per day. An important task was evaluating potential risks and health hazards. Based on this analysis we made sure that adequate channels of medical support were in place. It was also essential that we managed to establish a very good dialogue with the local hospital in Kristianstad.

The red containers of The Medical Section next to the Jamboree

The red containers of the Medical Section next to the Jamboree Headquarters

How was health care organised at the Jamboree?

The Medical Section was planned and managed  by 18 volunteers. And during the actual camp we had 19 doctors, 28 nurses, 30 nursing aid staff, 32 first aid staff and 28 other team members ensuring a high quality service on a 24h basis. In addition a number of associations had brought their own medical staff, including qualified doctors and nurses, who ensured adequate treatment within their contingents. The Section Team also regularly liaised with other parts of the Jamboree Organisation, such as the food department, the logistical team or the people dealing with fresh water supply, waste water and rubbish disposal.

What was the participant’s role in the health concept?

Preventive measures were an important issue. We emphasized this at every Heads of Contingents’ meeting prior and during the Jamboree. This included things like regular personal hygiene, adequate storage of food and water, as well as proper handling of waste and waste water. Each Jamboree Patrol Kit contained a First Aid Kit. Therefore, Unit Leaders could properly take care of minor injuries or health issues themselves.

Interventions at the Medical Section at the 22nd World Scout Jamboree (Sweden 2011)

Interventions at the Medical Section during the 22nd World Scout Jamboree (Sweden 2011)

Looking back on those twelve hectic days, on three years of planning and on several weeks of follow-up work and evaluation, what are your main findings?

Of a total of 40061 participants staying at the camp and the 31965 day-visitors, our services intervened more then 3000 times treating 2893 patients (about two thirds of them young participants and one third adult volunteers or visitors). The actual categories of injuries and other health problems presented a mixture of surgical and medical issues, including 284 cuts, 261 fractures, 220 falls and hits, 260 cases of respiratory infection or 208 insect bites. But our team also treated a few dental problems and provided psychological counselling and support. A total of 124 patients were taken to Kristianstad Central Hospital for further treatment, as we had decided to limit interventions at the Jamboree to such cases a normal general practice would take care of. Altogether 7,3% of all participants used the Medical Section during the camp.

So, what are your suggestions to the teams planning similar large camps and Jamborees?

Access to a written handbook reflecting local Swedish legal requirements had proven very helpful as our medical and nursing staff had different areas of expertise and came from many different countries. Unfortunately, we could not provide this handbook before the camp itself. To have these guidelines available for all health workers likely to be involved in advance of the Jamboree would be one of my suggestions.”

Other important aspects in a camp of such a size and with the main target audience aged 14 to 17 years are psychological issues. Coping with the many emotional stress factors can be rather challenging, both for young participants and the adult volunteers. At the Jamboree in Sweden, a system of so-called ‘listening ears’ was established: a team of experienced adult volunteers (who were not health workers) available all around the camp site and at any given time. They gave welcome support or just their listening ear to participants and adults who wanted or needed to talk to somebody. This was a very good service and took away some pressure from the medical team.”

“And one last remark: participants from 146 countries speak many different languages and come from a large variety of cultural backgrounds. It is likely that they may be used to different norms of hygiene or medical routine. The health and welfare team of any camp of that size has therefore to be very flexible and needs high interpersonal communications skills.

Thanks a lot Ib for having shared this important aspect of camp life with us. And I guess you will be back on volunteer duty in Japan at the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in 2015?

Well, I have sent in an application and offered my services as a member of the Jamboree Planning Team. Sharing my experience and a giving support so that thousands of young Scouts can experience a memorable World Scout Jamboree in a multicultural environment is an opportunity I would not want to miss. And something I can highly recommend to everybody.

So, if you are interested to join this unique adventure as an adult volunteer, just get in touch with your National Scout Organisation. The International Commissioner will be able to tell you how to apply. That phone call might be your first step to get your ticket to Japan 2015!

Further information about health and welfare at the Jamboree 2011:
– The Medical Section Team’s findings published in May 2013 in BMC Health Services Research
– The Official Report of the 22nd World Scout Jamboree

Information about the next World Scout Jamboree:
– The 23rd World Scout Jamboree, Japan 2015, on the Internet

© images: World Scout Jamboree 2011 & World Scout Bureau 2011

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Rupert Schildböck
About The Author

Rupert Schildböck

Rupert comes from Austria and is the Executive Assistant to the Regional Director. His responsibilities include internal and external communications and administrative assistance in Regional events.

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