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Schools asked to help with SunSmart research

As the academic year gets underway, the Cancer Society is preparing for a nationwide school survey to evaluate the SunSmart Schools’ Accreditation Programme (SSAP).

The SSAP is recommended as the “Gold Standard” schools’ sun-protection programme by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for students in years one to eight that have a sun protection policy in place that meets the Cancer Society’s minimum criteria.

The research will be conducted by the society’s social and behavioural research unit at Otago University, and researcher Bronwen McNoe is calling on as many schools as possible to participate.

“We need to know if this programme is working well for schools,” says Ms McNoe.

“Collecting accurate information will mean the findings and the subsequent resources will give us a better understanding of what areas need work. For this to happen, we need to have a really good representation of all schools.”

Sun protection is needed during terms one and four, especially between 10am and 4pm. Too much sun exposure during childhood increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

The survey began in 2005 prior to the SSAP being launched as a national programme. A follow-up survey was carried out in 2009.

The March 2017 survey will collect information around sun protection policies and practices in New Zealand schools and will reflect where the SSAP is most effective. Results will be available by summer 2017/2018.

In the meantime, the Cancer Society continues to drive the SunSmart message through its 881 accredited schools.

Slip into some sun-protective clothing (a collared shirt and sleeves) and slip into some shade, slop on some sunscreen SPF 30 or above, slap on a broad-brimmed or bucket hat, and wrap on some sunglasses are the well-known messages.  

The Ultraviolet Index (UVI) provides an indication of the level of protection required to protect our skin from too much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UVR). During terms one and four, the UVI is highly likely to be three or above which means we need to be SunSmart, even on cloudy or cooler days. (UVI can also reach three or above at the start of term two, and near the end of term three).

You can check out the current UVI in the following ways:

* uv2Day free smartphone app (www.niwa.co.nz/node/111461)

* Sun Protection Alert (www.sunsmart.org.nz)

* NIWA website UVI forecast for specific sites (http://www.niwa.co.nz/UV-forecasts)

Curriculum resources
The Cancer Society has free SunSmart curriculum resources available online at www.sunsmartschools.org.nz. These resources teach students about the sun and sun protection.

They are written by educational experts and are cross-curricular: numeracy, literacy, health, te reo and science. They are inquiry-based and can be used to assess national standards.

There are four PDFs available, covering levels one to four of the New Zealand curriculum. For schools using these resources, it’s learning by doing – there are hands-on lessons about the sun’s energy and how animals and humans adapt to it.

SunSmart schools
The Cancer Society runs the SunSmart Schools’ programme providing accreditation to New Zealand schools with students in years one to eight.

During the accreditation process, schools develop and implement a comprehensive sun protection policy and put SunSmart behaviours and education into practice.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world, and the number of people dying of melanoma each year is greater than the road toll. Too much sun exposure during childhood increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

As students are in school when UVR levels are at their peak, schools are uniquely placed to provide a sun-safe environment and educate students about sun protection behaviour that will reduce their future risk of skin cancer.

Information about becoming a SunSmart accredited school can be viewed online at: www.sunsmartschools.org.nz, or by contacting local Cancer Society office.

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