Environmental Health

Diversity and Inclusion

At the New Jersey Department of Health, we are not only responsible for managing diversity and inclusion, but cultivating an environment of fairness, equity, and inclusion for everyone.  We believe youth camp communities must each do our part individually — working collectively to end systemic discrimination. Diversity and inclusion in camps matter because our cities, state and country is filled with awesome folks who may look, act or sound different.   It is our individual differences that make this great country and world so unique and special!  Embrace our differences and help move us closer to a state of true acceptance, care and kindness for one another.



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The United States has become increasingly diverse in the last century. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 36 percent of the population belongs to a racial or ethnic minority group. Though health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved for most Americans, some minorities experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death, and disability compared with non-minorities. (CDC, 2021)



A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions). Although “people with disabilities” sometimes refers to a single population, this is actually a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see. (CDC, 2021)



Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, (LGB) youth are happy and thrive during their adolescent years. Having a youth summer camp that creates a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and having caring and accepting parents are especially important. Positive environments can help all youth achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health. However, some LGB youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes.

For youth to thrive in schools, camps and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported. A positive youth summer camp climate has been associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance use, and unexcused school absences among LGB students.1(CDC, 2021).  For more information on this topic and resources please visit the CDC LGBT Youth website.


What Camps Can Do:

  • Encourage respect for all students and prohibit bullying, harassment, and violence against all students.

  • Identify “safe spaces”, such as counselors’ offices or designated classrooms, where LGB youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, or other school staff.

  • Encourage student-led and student-organized school clubs that promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting camp environment (e.g., gay-straight alliances or gender and sexuality alliances, which are school clubs open to youth of all sexual orientations and genders).

  • Ensure that health curricula or educational materials include HIV, other STD, and pregnancy prevention information that is relevant to LGB youth (such as ensuring that curricula or materials use language and terminology.

  • Provide trainings to school staff on how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and encourage staff to attend these trainings.

  • Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling, social, and psychological services to LGBTQ youth.


What Can Parents/Caregivers Do:

Positive parenting practices, such as having honest and open conversations, can help reduce teen health risk behaviors. How parents engage with their LGB teen can have a tremendous impact on their adolescent’s current and future mental and physical health. Supportive and accepting parents can help youth cope with the challenges of being an LGB teen. On the other hand, unsupportive parents who react negatively to learning that their daughter or son is LGB can make it harder for their teen to thrive. Parental rejection has been linked to depression, use of drugs and alcohol, and risky sexual behavior among teens.

To be supportive, parents should talk openly and supportively with their teen about any problems or concerns. It is also important for parents to watch for behaviors that might indicate their teen is a victim of bullying or violence―or that their teen may be victimizing others. If bullying, violence, or depression is suspected, parents should take immediate action, working with school personnel and other adults in the community. (CDC, 2021)


1. Espelage DL, Aragon SR, Birkett M. Homophobic teasing, psychological outcomes, and sexual orientation among high school students: What influence do parents and schools have? Cdc-pdf[PDF - 104 KB] External School Psychology Review 2008; 37:202-216


Last Reviewed: 4/29/2024