Kew High School taking the lead on sun protection

Tuesday 25 February, 2014

SunSmart congratulates Kew High School for leading the way on sun protection with the implementation of a secondary school UV Policy.

Cancer Council Victoria’s SunSmart Secondary School Coordinator, Jane Hill, said: “It’s great to see a secondary school that has recognised the importance of protecting adolescents and stepped up its sun protection efforts. Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians aged 12-24 years; in fact Australian adolescents have by far the highest incidence of malignant melanoma in the world. Given school hours fall within the high ultraviolet (UV) periods of the day, secondary schools play a vital role in reducing UV exposure amongst this age group. 

“New Year 7 students arriving from primary school with well-established sun protection practices can, within a very short space of time, become complacent about looking after their skin. Without the appropriate structures and policies in place, there is potential for these behaviours to be quickly forgotten. Adolescence is a particularly critical period during which over exposure to UV radiation is more likely to contribute to skin cancer later in life. It is therefore important that other secondary schools follow Kew High School’s lead when it comes to sun protection.” she said. 

Health and Physical Education Co-ordinator at Kew High School, David Snaddon, said: “Before we began working with SunSmart, we didn’t realise how vulnerable our students were to sun damage, however we now realise that skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and we as a setting can play a significant role in reducing our students’ lifetime risk of developing the disease. One of the motivating factors was an education session for teaching staff where they were given the opportunity to use a skin scanner, allowing them to see sun damage hidden beneath their skin. It was a real eye opener for our  staff and brought home the message of how overexposure to UV radiation can put individuals at risk of developing skin cancer.”

Since then, Kew High School has developed a comprehensive sun protection policy promoting a healthy balance to UV exposure. Recommendations in the policy include; students and staff use sun protection between September to April when UV levels are high; summer uniform includes shirts with elbow length sleeves and a collar; and shaded areas of the school are better utilised and promoted.

High importance has also been placed on staff and student leaders role modelling the SunSmart practices whilst on yard duty, excursions, camps and sports days. “Role modelling by staff and student leaders is an essential part of any successful sun protection practice in a secondary school setting.  If students see other influential individuals setting an example of how to use sun protection, they will be more inclined to do it themselves,” said Ms Hill.

SunSmart has a Secondary School UV Program that has been specifically developed for Victorian secondary schools along with free secondary school specific resources.  To find out how to join this free program, visit sunsmart.com.au.

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