WEDNESDAY, MAY 9: The official start of summer is more than six weeks away, but it is definitely not too early to be thinking about sun safety.
Bermuda, like many other places, has already experienced above average temperatures for the year, including a record high of 75°F (24°C) on February 24.
Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre (BCHC), through the generous sponsorship of Allied World Assurance Company and The Argus Group, is doing its part to educate the community about the dangers of getting too much sun exposure.
Information is provided on our website www.chc.bm, at community health events, via presentations to public and private groups, and through the SunSmart programme which operates in pre-schools, primary schools, and summer camps.
The SunSmart school programme is delivered in a brief interactive skit format using muppets and an easy-to-learn SunSmart jingle which together reinforce the message of “slipping on protective clothing, slopping on SPF 30 + sunscreen, slapping on a broad brimmed hat, seeking shade whenever possible, and sliding on wrap-around sunglasses”.
Each pre-school attended receives large posters with the SunSmart message, and hats for every child. Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre believes that it is important to begin educating children from an early age as they are at greater risk of getting sunburn. In addition, children obtain most of their lifetime sun exposure before the age of eighteen.
Each year beginning in early spring, we commence our annual visits and our goal is to reach as many schools as possible before summer vacation begins. As it can be difficult to attend some schools due to scheduling conflicts, we also provide presentations to after-school programmes, PTA groups, or even attend sports days. In 2011, we attended 50 pre-schools and primary schools, and also delivered age-appropriate presentations at one middle school and one senior school.
We can see direct improvements as more and more schools provide shaded areas for outdoor play and adopt a “hat” policy for students when outside for play or sports.
This year we are pleased to provide activity books for the primary school level; one suitable for lower primary and the other for upper primary students. The books contain a variety of fun activities which include colouring, word search, fill-in-the-blank, word jumble and more — all of which support the sun safety message.
The SunSmart camp programme is directed towards camp organizers, leaders, and counsellors who will be responsible for the care and safety of children during the summer months. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. Training sessions are held each June and attendees can choose from several date options. During these sessions information is provided on the risks of too much sun exposure, which children are at greatest risk, protective sun safety behaviours, as well as the importance of modeling those behaviours. Hats are also provided for each camp student.
This BCHC programme, now in its 8th year, introduced a SunSmart Accreditation Programme for summer camps in 2009 and this has been very well received.
In addition to the topics already mentioned, assistance is given to enable camps to develop their own sun safety camp policy and how to communicate this information to the parents and guardians of their camp students.
A BCHC representative will then visit while the camp is in operation to observe whether these policies are being upheld.
Later, a written report is sent with recommendations for improvements if needed. All camps which meet the set criteria will receive accreditation and the right to use the SunSmart logo in their advertising materials for two years.
If you are operating a summer camp this year and are interested in our accreditation programme and supply of free hats, please contact Rhonda Smith-Simmons at 236-0949 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.