Do Pediatricians Counsel Families About Sun Protection?: A Massachusetts Survey

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Abstract

Background

Pediatric visits during summer months may be especially opportune times for sun protection counseling for children and their parents. Few data exist on the extent of such counseling.

Objective

To begin to assess this, we surveyed practicing Massachusetts pediatricians to examine current attitudes and practices of sun protection counseling.

Design and Setting

Surveys mailed to Massachusetts pediatricians.

Results

We received surveys from 756 (60%) of 1263 eligible Massachusetts pediatricians. Almost 70% indicated that they recommended safe sun practices to more than 50% of their patients and their parents during the summer months. Counseling regarding seat belt use, bicycle helmet use, and smoking prevention were ranked higher in priority than sun protection counseling by pediatricians; nutritional guidelines were noted by pediatricians to be a parent's most frequent concern. Four variables were independently associated with a practitioner's providing safe sun recommendations to more than 50% of parents and children: (1) private setting and health maintenance organization practitioners as opposed to academic physicians, (2) high ranking of patients' safe sun knowledge, (3) high priorities of both parents and physicians for sun protection counseling and parental knowledge of safe sun practices relative to other recommendations, and (4) pediatrician interest in receiving instructional materials.

Conclusions

For the most part, summer sun protection counseling among Massachusetts pediatricians seems well integrated into standard practice. Most pediatricians rated their confidence level as high for discussing sun protection and only a few cited inadequate training or poor reimbursement as barriers toward improved counseling. Small steps, such as providing more instructional materials to patients and using office-based reminder systems, may improve the quality of sun protection counseling practices. Incorporating sunburn prevention into the list of routinely recommended injury prevention guidelines for pediatricians should be considered.

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