Monday, September 21, 2009

The Importance of the Health Form - Keeping Your Child Safe!

One of my responsibilities at People to People Ambassador Programs is to manage and provide leadership to the medical team. The medical team is composed of highly trained individuals responsible for collecting a health form from every single delegate planning to travel on one of our many life-changing programs. The health form is a simple but important two-sided document that allows parents and guardians to alert our medical team to any condition students might have that could impact their ability to participate in and enjoy the experiences of our programs. The health form is submitted to the medical team soon after participants enroll to ensure all health issues can be addressed in a timely manner prior to traveling.

While a student is on program, that same health form is carried by the program leader. In the event a student becomes ill and needs to be taken to a medical professional, the health form will provide the treating medical professional with medical information to effectively treat the student.

The medical form requests full disclosure of all health and medical conditions including but not limited to health and mobility limitations, hearing or vision impairments, allergies, diabetes, etc. The parent/guardian is asked to fully explain any health, medical, or mobility conditions or limitations and notify the medical team of all medications the student requires to control the conditions, along with emergency contact information. The health form also requires the parent/guardian to acknowledge and agree to important disclosures. These agreed disclosures serve several purposes and allow People to People Ambassador Programs associates and leaders to seek medical treatment for the student in the event such treatment is needed while a student is on the program. The parent/guardian also consents and authorizes the treating physician to share important information with our program office and with the leaders in the field. Having this authorization allows us to promptly communicate factual information with the student’s parent/guardian (or designated emergency contacts in the event a parent/guardian is unavailable).

The health form explains the importance of disclosing all health and medical conditions or information to our medical team. The reason is very simple—if we clearly understand a student’s health or medical condition in advance, our organization will be more successful in providing the best possible program for the traveler. Full disclosure of all health and medical conditions by the parent/guardian in advance increases our ability to reasonably accommodate the student’s health and medical needs.

At People to People Ambassador Programs, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide reasonable accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 2009, we increased the number of reasonable accommodations made from 2008, which means that many more students can have access to a life-changing experience, including those who may not have had the opportunity with other organizations in the past.

One of the ways we keep up to date on the latest ADA laws is by annually inviting our friends and colleagues from the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) to our Spokane headquarters. For the past two years, this group of ADA specialists from the University of Washington campus in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, has traveled to Spokane to provide our organization with the most up-to-date training available on ADA laws and requirements. Last year, we trained more than 20 key associates who are responsible for establishing program venues and content as well as dealing directly with families requesting reasonable accommodations. Of course, we also trained the leadership team responsible for the management of our vast network of leaders. Next month, the DBTAC will make its annual trip to Spokane to provide this year’s training, just in time to cover some of the ADA laws that were expanded or changed in 2009.

In addition to ADA training, we also provide HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1999) training and certification to the key individuals who have access to confidential medical information. The privacy rules contained within HIPAA provide federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and give patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the privacy rules are balanced so that they permit the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

People to People Ambassador Programs is not held to the rigorous standards of HIPAA by any agency, as we are not a medical-service provider nor do we charge for medical services. But we do believe the confidentiality of your child’s medical information is vitally important, and therefore we voluntarily have elected to meet and implement HIPAA standards and requirements. Accessibility to all medical information is limited to just those associates who have a reason to know the information. Each employee with this access, including me, has been certified in HIPAA Privacy and Security Training by Supremus Group. What this means to you is that the information you share with our organization will be kept confidential and protected.

In short, we have a very comprehensive medical-health review process in place that is designed to ensure the safety and health of all delegates while they are on one of our programs. But our ability to effectively manage this program relies on the information shared on the medical health form. If your child needs a reasonable accommodation, our highly trained medical team will do all in their power to develop a plan that is right for your child.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!



  1. I'm wondering why it is that P2P does not require every single Student Ambassador to have a medical form signed by their physician? To go to school, camp, play sports, etc. students must have this. But leaders who are traveling out of the country with these students have to trust a form filled out by their parents? That doesn't seem right. As a leader (who has had some sort of surprise condition arise that wasn't on the medical form every time I have traveled with P2P), I would feel infinitely more comfortable if a doctor had at least seen and signed the health form. One would imagine that the parents would, too.

  2. A health form is required for every traveler on any People to People Program. This form calls for the disclosure of any medical condition. In the past, if a parent or Citizen Ambassador failed to disclose a condition and later arrived on our program needing an accommodation, our travel services staff worked with the world-wide partner to make it so. Clearly we are in a better position to make a reasonable accommodation in accordance with ADA laws when we have advance notice of a condition needing that accommodation. Trying to make a last minute accommodation reduces our ability to effectively evaluate the condition and accommodation request so that practice has been discontinued. For 2010 the health form was revised to add a disclosure clause which informs the parent that if they fail to disclose a medical condition on the health form, they understand and agree that if the students arrives on our program with a condition, not disclosed in advance, then we may not be able to accommodate the delegate and the parent will be responsible for the cost associated with returning that delegate home.

    Roughly 90% of all People to People travelers have no condition or need for an accommodation. Based on this fact, I do not believe it would be appropriate to require families to expend the money to see a medical professional prior to travel, for no justified reason. We trust that a responsible parent would understand the value in disclosing any medical condition or need for an accommodation, and most all do just that. For the few that have failed to disclose a condition in the past, I feel the new disclosure statement will close that loop and help us better protect the interest and safety of our delegates.

  3. Have you considered taking a group of kids that might have special needs on one of these trips as a group. There is a teacher at our school who would so like to be a leader for special needs kids. He is a special needs high school teacher who has Cerebral Palsy, and walks on his own, but probably would be limited on some of the the physical rigors of a normal People to People European walking all over the place tour but could sure give you some help on a trip for disabled children with mobiltiy problems.