Sun protection in primary schools: Exploring the SunSmart phenomenon
Australia currently has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, despite the presence of numerous national skin cancer prevention programs since the 1980s. Primary schools have been identified by organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) as appropriate settings for health promotion. Sun safety interventions in primary schools have potential to create lifelong sun protection behaviours and subsequently lower children's future risk of skin cancer. The SunSmart Program evolved from the Slip! Slop! Slap! campaign, and is a resource designed to support schools' implementation of an effective sun protection policy. While the SunSmart Program has been freely available for NSW primary schools since 2008, research regarding the perceived effectiveness of the support provided by the resource has been minimal.
This research used a comparative case study to explore students', school staff members' and community members' perceptions of the SunSmart Program in two school sites, situated within the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) area. These perceptions provided a better understanding of how the SunSmart Program is implemented within NSW primary schools, and established how health promotion initiatives targeting sun protection can coordinate the efforts of students, staff and community members to effectively address these goals.
I previously completed my Bachelor of Education (Health and Physical Education) at CSU, which I chose because it was widely recognised as a university that developed high quality Health and Physical Education professionals. In the final year of my Bachelor of Education, I was introduced to the Health Promoting Schools (HPS) framework. The HPS framework is a concept designed to provide a safe and supportive environment in schools while promoting health and wellbeing to students, staff and members of the community. This concept resonated with me and eventually acted as the foundation of my doctoral studies. Following the completion of my Honours in 2013, I approached CSU to become a PhD candidate so that I could continue to develop my understanding of the HPS concept, and use it as a framework for improving the health of school communities.