Sun protection policy in elementary schools in Hawaii

Author(s): Eakin P, Maddock J, Techur-Pedro A, Kaliko R, Derauf DC


Introduction:Childhood sun exposure is a major risk factor for skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States. Schools in locations that receive high amounts of ultraviolet radiation have been identified as important sites for reducing excessive sun exposure.

Methods:The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of sun protection policies, environmental features, and attitudes in public elementary schools in Hawaii. Surveys were sent to all (n = 177) public elementary school principals in Hawaii. Non-respondents were called three weeks after the initial mailing. The survey asked about sun protection policies, environmental features, and attitudes toward sun protection. The survey was designed to measure all seven components of Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Results:Seventy-eight percent of schools responded to the survey. Only one school had a written school policy. Almost all schools (99.3%) scheduled outdoor activities during peak sun hours. School uniforms rarely included long pants (6.5%), long-sleeved shirts (5.1%), or hats (1.5%). Current policies did not support or restrict sun protection habits. Almost one third of those surveyed were in favor of a statewide policy (28.1%), and most believed excessive sun exposure was an important childhood risk (78.9%), even among non-white students (74.5%).

Conclusion:Results of this study suggest the following: 1) school personnel in Hawaii are concerned about childhood sun exposure; 2) current school policies fail to address the issue; 3) most schools are receptive to developing sun protection policies and programs; and 4) students appear to be at high risk for sun exposure during school hours.

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