Designed for young people with a chronic rheumatological condition between the ages of 12 and 16 the Birmingham Residential Program has been running for the past 10 years and takes place during the summer holiday in order to avoid absence from school (26). Self-catering accommodation in a rural location is selected for its proximity to public transport networks and shopping facilities, as well as the availability of adventure activities such as canoeing, climbing, abseiling and team building challenges. Participants are invited to a pre-meeting at the hospital a number of weeks before the trip in order to meet each other and plan the program. The young people are given a range of activities to choose from in the locality of the hostel, and are asked to vote on their preferred activities. All meals are planned by participants and the house rules are also agreed. Characteristics of the residential program are detailed in Table 1.
In a recent evaluation of this trip (26), friendship development was one of the major benefits perceived by young people. At follow-up four months later, the majority had stayed in touch with at least one other person with more girls staying in touch than boys. This may suggest that females either have a greater need for social support or that they may be more socially skilled. For male participants, social stereotype may have prevented them from maintaining contact. Difficulties in the relationships of young adult males with JIA have been reported (27). Health professionals should therefore bear in mind this evidence of gender differences and specifically consider provision of opportunities for young males with rheumatic diseases to meet other young people. In this study mobile phones played an important role in maintaining social contact and may have a role to play in health care for communicating with teenagers, as well as peer support networking. Overall the program was perceived as a valuable experience and offered the young people the opportunity to develop informal peer support networks. Examples of the feedback from a recent camp in Birmingham are detailed in Table 2. Residential camps as described may play an important role in the psychosocial care of teenagers with rheumatic disease and provide a forum for facilitating peer support.
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