SunSmart policies and practices in Victorian local government: 2005

Dobbinson S, Rose M, Peckham P, Makin J

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 21

The principal aim of the current study, conducted from June 2005 to January 2006, was to assess the level of documented commitment to skin cancer prevention in local government. Council policies/strategic documents (Municipal Public Health Plans (MPHP), Municipal Strategic Statements (MSS) and Municipal Early Years Plans (MEYP)) were collected and subjected to a content analysis. This included both specific and implied references, as in a broad sense, implied mentions offer scope to address shade and skin cancer prevention in local community as opportunities arise. Council officers' self-reporting of the inclusion of shade and sun protection references in these documents was collected via a short questionnaire. 

Content analysis revealed that specific references to shade, sun protection and skin cancer prevention were relatively low in all documents, but were highest in MPHPs (28%) and lowest in MSSs (13%). However, implied references to shade provision were much more frequent across all three documents, 67% in MPHPs, 64% in MSSs and 51% in MEYPs. There was a relatively high level of agreement between self-report responses to the survey and results from the content analysis. Reported inclusion of references to sun protection in MPHPs was lower in 2005 than in previous years (26% compared to 49% and 54% in 2001 and 1998 respectively).

While reports of inclusion of references to shade provision in strategic documents were encouraging, there remains substantial scope for improvement. The results show that there is scope to increase councils' recognition of implicit mentions of sun protection as also representing opportunities to address shade and sun protection in their local community. Examples of best practice collected through the survey can be adapted by SunSmart to assist local councils to include references to shade and sun protection in future reviews of the council's key strategic documents, taking scheduled timing of review periods into account.