Sun-protective behaviors of student spectators at inter-school swimming carnivals in a tropical region experiencing high ambient solar ultraviolet radiation

Turner, Denise, Harrison, Simone Lee, and Bates, Nicole (2016) Sun-protective behaviors of student spectators at inter-school swimming carnivals in a tropical region experiencing high ambient solar ultraviolet radiation. Frontiers in Public Health, 4. 168. pp. 1-11.

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Skin cancer is the most common cancer in humans and Australia (particularly in Queensland) has the highest incidence globally. Sunlight is a known skin carcinogen and reflects off water, exacerbating the risk of sunburn. In 1988, the “SunSmart Program” was developed to promote sun-protection to Australian children. Within a decade, it evolved to include a voluntary national accreditation program for schools, known as the SunSmart Schools (SSS) Program. Additionally, in 2008, it became compulsory for primary schoolchildren attending Queensland government-funded schools to wear a shirt during all water-based activities, except when competing. We observed the proportion of student spectators from 41 Townsville (latitude 19.3°S) primary schools (65.9% SSS) wearing hats at inter-school swimming carnivals in 2009–2011 and 2015 and the proportion wearing a shirt. Overall, a median of 30.7% student spectators from each school wore a hat [max 46.2% (2009); min 18% (2015)] and 77.3% wore a shirt [max 95.8% (2009); min 74.5% (2015)], suggesting that hats are under-utilized. Students from non-government (private) schools were twice as likely as students from government schools to wear a hat (41 vs. 18.2% p = 0.003). Neither the hat nor the shirt-wearing behaviors of student spectators were significantly influenced by their school’s size (number of students), educational advantage, sun-protection policy score, or SunSmart status, indicating that other socioeconomic factors, not assessed here, may have influenced the results. Our findings suggest that the mandatory swim-shirt policy introduced in 2008 was very effective, especially initially. However, monitoring and feedback of results to schools may be needed to maintain high levels of compliance in the longer-term. Schoolchildren attending swimming carnivals should not rely on sunscreen or shade alone to protect against direct and reflected-sunlight, and need prompting to put a hat and shirt back on immediately after a race. This responsibility could be delegated to either a parent or a student prefect, if teachers are too busy to encourage and monitor sun-safety compliance among the students in their care.

Item ID: 48574
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2296-2565
Keywords: skin cancer; swimming; child; sun-safety; ultraviolet radiation; ultraviolet protection factor; clothing; sun-protection
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Copyright: © 2016 Turner, Harrison and Bates. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

This publication was included as Chapter 7 of the following PhD thesis: Turner, Denise (2017) A cross-sectional analysis of the sun-protective behaviours and policies at primary schools in north and far north Queensland. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Queensland Health (QH), The Parkes Bequest, Alf and Winifred Murgatroyd Perpetual Charitable Trust, James Cook University, The Rotary Club of Thuringowa
Projects and Grants: QH #57543
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2017 04:01
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4202 Epidemiology > 420210 Social epidemiology @ 40%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420605 Preventative health care @ 30%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420603 Health promotion @ 30%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920401 Behaviour and Health @ 100%
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