School sun-protection policies—does being SunSmart make a difference?

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Abstract

Evaluate the comprehensiveness of primary school sun-protection policies in tropical North Queensland, Australia. Pre-determined criteria were used to assess publicly available sun-protection policies from primary schools in Townsville (latitude 19.3°S; n =43), Cairns (16.9°S; n =46) and the Atherton Tablelands (17.3°S; n =23) during 2009–2012. Total scores determined policy comprehensiveness. The relationship between policy score, SunSmart status and demographic characteristics was explored. At least 96.6% of primary schools sampled had a sun-protection policy. Although policies of Cancer Council accredited ‘SunSmart’ schools addressed more environmental, curriculum and review-related criteria than those of ‘non-SunSmart’ schools, the overall median score for both groups was low at 2 from a possible 12 (48.5% of SunSmart schools [SSSs]: inter-quartile range [IQR=2.0–9.0] versus 65.9% of non-SSSs: [IQR=2.0–3.0], P =0.008). Most policies addressed hat wearing, while criteria related to shade provision at outdoor events, regular policy review and using the policy to plan outdoor events were poorly addressed. Although most primary schools in skin cancer-prone North Queensland have written sun-protection policies, the comprehensiveness of these policies could be vastly improved. These schools may require further support and advice to improve the comprehensive of their policies and incentives to continually implement them to achieve and maintain exemplary sun-protection compliance.

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