Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation first funded SunSmart in 1988 in Victoria.
Today SunSmart is a multi-faceted program recognised for providing leadership and innovation in ultraviolet radiation (UV) protection. Programs operate in each state and territory of Australia by respective Cancer Councils, all using common principals but tailored to jurisdictional priorities. The sun protection message has expanded to Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide!
30 years of commitment and partnerships with VicHealth, government, key partners and community agencies has seen huge changes in social norms and health including:
- A proven track record in preventing cancer and saving lives – preventing more than 103,000 skin cancers in Victoria between 1988 and 2003; resulting in more than 1,000 deaths being averted.
- While melanoma incidence in Victoria continues to rise, there are now falling incidence rates in men and women younger than 40 years, consistent with a positive effect of the SunSmart program on behaviour change.
- In contrast to the pre-SunSmart ‘baby boomers’, the number of basal and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer treatments among those aged under 45 years is also decreasing relative to population growth.
- SunSmart is extremely cost effective with a $2.30 net saving for every dollar spent and is one of a handful of Australian public health interventions assessed as being ‘excellent value for money’.
- Victoria was one of the first states in Australia to legislate solariums in 2008 and more recently, ban solariums entirely. From 1 January 2015, commercial tanning units will be banned in this state, saving lives.
- 90% of Victorian primary schools are registered SunSmart Schools, reaching 430,000 children. This is the highest participation rate across all Australian states; and the highest participation rate for any public health intervention in Australian. 89% of all Victorian primary schools now have a sun protection policy, compared with 17% in 1993.
- In 1988 2% of Victorian preschools reported that hats were available at preschool – this has now increased to 91%. The program reaches approximately 194,000 Victorian children.
- Between 2009–2013, 491 workplace education sessions were conducted at more than 150 workplaces reaching almost 8000 participants.
- The SunSmart app has been downloaded by over 80,000 people. In summer 2010–11, 40% of Victorian adults reported recently using UV Alerts or sun protection times to make decisions about sun protection, up from 26% in 2009.
To find out more, go to Cancer Council Victoria's web page on evaluation and behavioural research in skin cancer.
The next two decades
Over the next 20 years, SunSmart will strive to influence lifestyles, behaviours and environments to ensure a balanced approach to UV exposure in Victoria.
In coming years we will:
- lobby for increased funding for public education campaigns, especially television advertising
- advocate for funding for the development of new programs focused on older people, particularly older men, and education strategies for health professionals and general public in relation to skin cancer and vitamin D
- integrate skin cancer prevention activity in state-wide prevention initiatives such as the Healthy Together Achievement Program
- advocate for quality shade provision in schools and early childhood settings; and partnerships with State Government bodies such as Parks Victoria and Local Governments for improved shade in public spaces such as parks, sporting, and aquatic and recreation facilities.
- continue to innovate, implement and evaluate campaigns and health promotion tools using new technologies and social media.
- continue to deliver core activities such as working with schools , early childhood services , workplaces , local government , sporting organisations and communities educating and promoting UV protection and early detection of skin cancer.
Resources, research and innovative strategies are required to address these challenges.