The U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called on the nation’s schools to help prevent skin cancer by implementing sun safety practices and policies. The Sun Safe Schools program was designed by Klein Buendel researchers and collaborators in response to those calls to action. The program was implemented and evaluated with 118 public elementary schools in California.
Dr. David Buller, Klein Buendel Director of Research, presented data on the impact of the Sun Safe Schools intervention on parents’ reports of sun safety communication from schools and children’s sun protection behavior at the 12th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health in Washington, DC, December 4-6, 2019.
Schools randomized to the Sun Safe Schools intervention group (N=58) received support for implementing school sun safety practices by trained coaches over 20 months. Based on Diffusion of Innovations Theory, support and resources for implementation were tailored to school principals’ readiness to implement. Parents completed an online posttest survey through invitations sent by principals or while attending parent-oriented school events. Parents were surveyed to test the hypothesis that parents would report more communication about sun safety at schools receiving the intervention than at control schools.
The Sun Safe Schools program appeared to increase communication on sun safety and the use of student sun protection. Parents in intervention schools were more likely to report receiving information about sun safety from the school and that their children wore sun-protective clothing than in control schools. The improvement in sun safety appeared to result from policy implementation. In schools where principals reported implementing sun safety practices at posttest, parents reported that children spent less time outdoors and had fewer sunburns than at non-implementing schools. Further, parents who received information about sun safety from the school reported more sun protection for their child than parents not receiving the information.
In summary, a school district-level policy, combined with active technical support for schools within the district, appears to be effective at increasing implementation of school sun safety practices to help protect children from solar ultraviolet radiation, the primary risk factor for the development of skin cancer.
The Sun Safe Schools program is a joint research effort of Claremont Graduate University (CGU), the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and Klein Buendel. The research was funded by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health (HD074416; Dr. Kim Reynolds, CGU, and Dr. David Buller, Multiple Principal Investigators). Other collaborators included Dr. Richard Meenan from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon; Dr. Jeff Ashley from Sun Safety for Kids in Los Angeles, California; Kim Massie previously from Chapman University; and Julia Berteletti and Mary Buller from Klein Buendel.