Awareness, understanding & use of the SunSmart UV Alert by the Victorian public

Makin J, Dobbinson S, Strong K

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 30

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation has been identified as the cause of around 99% of non-melanocytic skin cancers and 95% of melanoma in Australia. The SunSmart UV Alert provides information on forecast variations in UV index levels during the day, in particular giving the times when the UV index is forecast to reach 3 or above, when skin damage can occur.

This study examined awareness, understanding and use of the SunSmart UV Alert by the Victorian public, through an intercept survey conducted with 419 adults. Awareness of the Alert was high, particularly given the limited media sources from which it can currently be accessed. Nearly half of all respondents recalled having seen the Alert, and among the 61 respondents who had got weather information from a newspaper on the day of the survey, 43% had seen the SunSmart UV Alert that day.

Basic understanding of the SunSmart UV Alert graphic was good, with most respondents recognising that the Alert represents variations in UV levels throughout the day. However, only very few respondents noted the actual Alert times. Among the 69 respondents who reported having seen the UV Alert on the day of the survey or in the newspaper during summer, 65% reported that seeing it helped remind them that they might need to use sun protection when they went outdoors.

However, no conclusions could be drawn regarding the effectiveness of the Alert in prompting sun protection on the day of the survey due to low numbers of respondents having seen the Alert for the day.

Based on these findings, it is recommended that wider dissemination of the Alert through television and radio should continue to be sought. Further research is required to pre-test options for modifying the graphic to improve understanding and links to sun protection behaviours, and to further explore the potential effectiveness of education campaigns centring on the SunSmart UV Alert.