Educators encouraged to role model UV aware behaviour in new Vic campaign
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Educators encouraged to role model UV aware behaviour in new Vic campaign

by Freya Lucas

December 17, 2018

A study has found that sun protection behaviours in Melbourne’s parks, streets and swimming areas shows “an abysmally low” use of sun safe clothing and hats, prompting Cancer Council Victoria to launch a new campaign called UV; it all adds up.  


With an increase in community engagement and excursions outside centres, alongside research showing the power of early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators as role models, the campaign launch is a timely reminder for educators to explore their own sun-safe habits, and ensure they are role modeling appropriate sun-safe behaviour.


The Sun Observation Study monitored teenagers’ and adults’ use of covering clothing, hats, sunglasses and shade in public outdoor settings. Observations took place over six summer weekends in Melbourne, from January to February 2018.


The study found low protection from clothing cover at pools and beaches (5 per cent of people observed had arms covered and 8 per cent had legs covered), parks and gardens (15 per cent arms and 39 per cent legs) and in outdoor streets and cafes (18 per cent and 49 per cent).


About 1 in 3 people wore a hat to parks and gardens or pools and beaches, however most of these hats did not offer enough protection to the face, neck and ears. Whilst educators in ECEC settings may have greater awareness of sun protection whilst in education and care settings, owing to regulatory requirements and a focus on role modeling whilst in the service, the findings are significant, when considered in a broader community context.


The findings come as SunSmart prepares to launch its summer campaign, which warns UV rays can damage unprotected skin no matter where you are.


“The low use of protective clothing reflected in this observation study is really concerning. Of course, we don’t expect people to rug up in sweltering weather, but it’s important to choose loose, cool clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Leaving skin exposed is simply putting yourself at risk of a sunburn, and down the line, skin cancer,”  SunSmart Manager Heather Walker said.


“This is an especially important message as Victorians prepare for their holiday break. Whether you’re heading down to the beach, out doing the shopping, grabbing a coffee or simply relaxing in the backyard, at this time of year you’ll need sun protection each and every day,” she added.


While the study was unable to collect information on sunscreen use, Ms Walker said it was a timely reminder to use all five sun protection steps in combination.


“Sunscreen is an excellent form of protection and absolutely essential but for our extreme UV climate you need the best level of protection – clothing, a hat, shade, sunglasses and sunscreen together,” Ms Walker said.


“Despite its prevalence, most skin cancer can be prevented by using good sun protection. Summer is the peak risk time for UV damage, so it’s absolutely critical Victorians protect their skin in five ways outdoors,” she added.


SunSmart recommends checking local sun protection times on the free SunSmart app or Bureau of Meteorology app. During these times each day:


  • Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible


  • Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen


  • Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears


  • Seek shade


  • Slide on sunglasses.


ACECQA, the National Quality Framework, and the Cancer Council offer specific guidance in relation to sun protection in an ECEC service context.

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