South Australian school children urged to be SunSmart when they return to school this week.
It might have been a wetter than average start to winter, but Cancer Council SA is urging young South Aussies to pack their SunSmart gear in the school bag when they return to school this week.
From the start of term three the UV Index will start to rise to skin damaging levels of 3 and above, which is high enough to damage unprotected skin. In South Australia, this generally occurs from the start of August to the end of April, coinciding with school terms one, three and four.
With Melanoma the most common cancer in Australians aged 12 – 24, Cancer Council SA Chief Executive Lincoln Size says it’s vital that children and young people are protected from overexposure to UV radiation, particularly when they are outside during the middle of the day when the UV is at its highest.
“It’s important to remember that UV and heat are not related. The heat we feel is the presence of infrared radiation, but UV radiation cannot be seen or felt. It is unrelated to temperature and its damage to the skin is cumulative and irreversible,” he said.
“Even on cool or cloudy days, like those we experience throughout August, the potential for skin damage is significant.”
“Exposure to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence is a known critical determinant of future skin cancer risk, which is why protecting children, and educating them on why it matters is so important. It also ensures that young people develop good sun protection habits that continue into adulthood.”
Cancer Council’s SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood Program currently protects 109,000 South Australian children every year. St Martin’s Catholic Primary School have been a part of the program for more than twenty years and will be enforcing SunSmart measures when students return to school. Their out of school hours care (OSHC) monitor UV levels using the SunSmart app and apply sun protection when the UV is 3 or above.
“The fact that the program has been around for so long—I can even remember it when I was at school—is fantastic as students, staff and families can relate with the message,” said Assistant Principal Religious Identity & Mission Rose Valenti.
“The importance of educating young students about the dangers and how to protect themselves is paramount to their physical wellbeing, especially with the UV levels in Australia and the SunSmart Program plays a vital role in driving home that message.
It’s also key that students can translate that information to ‘home/family time activities’ hat wearing as well.”
“Support of the SunSmart Program has enabled us to embed the SunSmart message into daily school activities. We constantly reinforce SunSmart behaviours via PA speaker messages, newsletters with hat wearing information and check the UV levels via the SunSmart app in the Front Office, during classes and in OSHC.”
“As a SunSmart member we update our policy every three years, which is incredibly important, and enables us to keep up to date with relevant information and research to inform best practice within a school setting,” she said.
Mr Size congratulated St Martin’s Catholic Primary School, and the thousands of early childhood centres, schools and OSHC services across the country, that are leading the charge by being SunSmart. He agreed that it is important for students to understand the reasons for SunSmart practices, to help young people feel motivated to continue sun protection beyond the school environment.
“The SunSmart School and Early Childhood Program has been running in South Australia for more than 20 years and currently empowers nearly 700 members with information and resources to protect their students and ensure that they remain SunSmart whenever the UV is 3 and above,” he said.
“It’s important that schools follow the lead of St Martin’s School and protect their students when they return to school this week—enforcing a no hat, play in the shade rule, or introducing a sunscreen reminder before outdoor play might seem a small gesture, but it will make a huge difference to every one of those students in the long term.”
The SunSmart Team at Cancer Council SA can assist schools in developing a sun protection policy that protects staff and students in their care. In addition, advice, training and a range of resources can also be provided to help schools meet the South Australian Department for Education’s sun protection requirements.
Cancer Council SA encourages schools to access their new ‘SunSmart Hat Wearing Toolkit’ range of resources, which provides a step by step guide to addressing the barriers to achieve 100 per cent of students and staff wearing Cancer Council approved hats.
To find out more about the Program or to check the SunSmart status of any South Australian early childhood centre, school or OSHC visit sunsmart.org.au, contact the SunSmart Team on (08) 8291 4265 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.