25 Years of SunSmart

Since it began in WA in 1998, the SunSmart Schools Program has been a proud advocate for sun safety in the primary years. When the program began, few schools required students to wear a brimmed hat and sunscreen use was less than ideal. Over 400 schools are now registered as SunSmart Schools, ensuring minimum standards are met for sun safe behaviours and environments. We know that effective sun protection is important, and that it makes a difference. As many as 95 per cent of skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, with childhood and adolescence the most critical time to protect the skin. While skin cancers remain largely preventable, two out of three Australians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. For people aged under 40, the rates of the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, has more than halved since 2000. However, melanoma remains the most common form of cancer diagnosed in young Australians aged 15 to 29 years (AIHW, 2022).

The SunSmart team recognises there is work still to be done and it is pleasing to see the SunSmart strategies – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide are a part of the day in most schools. Baseball caps are now rarely seen in the primary school playground as schools recognise the superior UV protection that broad-brimmed hats provide. Uniform alternatives such as collared shirts with long sleeves are more common and rashies feature in water activities. However, sunscreen application at school is still not ideal, and we know that many schools struggle to ensure they can fund adequate shade.

Evidence shows that a combination of these strategies will protect students and staff from harmful UV radiation and future skin cancers.

When your school joins SunSmart Schools, we provide you with the following:
• ‘We are SunSmart’ fence sign
• membership certificate
• links to resources and learning modules
• advice on health promotion strategies and policy development
• access to exclusive competitions

Being a registered SunSmart School means your sun protection policy and practice meet minimum standards, ensuring that the school community has effective and evidence-based measures in place to reduce future skin cancer risk.

SunSmart Schools is a FREE national program assisting schools that have a commitment to sun protection.

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