18 years of SunSmart sees dramatic increase in hats and sun-protective clothing in childcare and kinders

Thursday 11 September, 2014

As UV levels rise across the state, Victorian pre-school and childcare services are leading the way in slapping on their hats and slipping on shirts, according to new SunSmart research released today to coincide with the program’s 18th anniversary in preschools and childcare centres.

The SunSmart Early Childhood Program, which is celebrating 18 years this month, encourages a healthy ultraviolet (UV) exposure balance to ensure children and educators are sun safe when they need to be.

The new data released today shows that 100% of services involved in the program encourage children to wear hats during the peak UV seasoni, from September to April, compared to just 2% of services in 1988.ii The data also shows that 72% of services encourage sun-protective clothing use, compared to just 4% of services in 2001.iii

Eighty-one per cent of Victorian Early Childhood Education and Care services are voluntary members of the program, which reaches more than 190,000 children and their families every year.

SunSmart Manager Sue Heward said: “Early childhood services can play a very important role in protecting our young children from overexposure to the sun’s UV rays, and in the long term, in reducing these children's future skin cancer risk.”

Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development Wendy Lovell said: “It’s important children learn to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide from a young age and develop SunSmart habits that last a lifetime.

“Keeping children safe from UV rays is all of our responsibility and I would like to thank schools and children’s services across the state for doing their bit. Over three quarters of Victorian early childhood services are registered SunSmart members and I’d encourage those who are not already members to get on board. Our support for this program builds on a range of Victorian Government initiatives aimed at keeping children safe from the sun, including investments in installing shaded areas in children’s centres, schools, playgrounds and parks,” Minister Lovell said.

Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten in Richmond is a founding member of the program, joining when it first began in 1996. Teacher Joshua Miles said: “Children attend kindergarten sessions during peak UV times and engage in active, outdoor play where exposure to UV can be significant.

“Working together with SunSmart, we’ve introduced measures to reduce overexposure to UV when children are playing outdoors. This includes installing shade, encouraging sunprotective hats and clothing for children and educators, ensuring sunscreen is applied throughout the day and learning about skin and how to protect it. We also provide information for families − it’s not just about being SunSmart at kinder, but at home too.”

Kindergarten parent committee president Rick Phelps applauds the program, which he said has helped ensure sun protection is a regular part of the family routine. Mr Phelps said: “We’re very conscious of hat and clothing choices and practice sunscreen application with our son so that he will be all set for school. He’s even starting to remind me to grab my broad-brimmed hat before we head out.”

Sun protection is required in Victoria from September to April when the UV levels are 3 or higher. To find the daily UV level and times that you’ll need sun protection download the free SunSmart app, check the weather section of the newspaper or visit www.sunsmart.com.au

[i] Hawkins K, Fish J & Roth F. Sun protection policies and practices of Australian early childhood services: Results of the 2013 National Early Childhood Sun Protection Policy and Practice Survey. Report prepared for the National Skin Committee and Cancer Council Victoria. Adelaide, Australia. Cancer Council South Australia, October 2013.

[ii] Noy S & Rassaby J. When we were very young: a skin cancer prevention program for preschool age children and their caregivers, in SunSmart Evaluation Studies No.2 1992, Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria: Melbourne, Australia. p. 119–27.

[iii] Dobbinson SJ. Reaction to the 2000/2001 SunSmart campaign: Results from a telephone survey of Victorians, in SunSmart Evaluation Studies No. 72004, The Cancer Council Victoria: Melbourne, Australia. p.69–84.

Updated: 11 Sep, 2014