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Generation SunSmart

WA // Being a health champion (when you’re up against it)

Are you that person at your school who wants to improve the health of students, but keeps hitting resistance? You’re not alone!

Health programs and initiatives work better when the whole school community is on board, but that can be easier said than done. For example, you may be trying to improve healthy eating, sun protection, or staff health, but there can be opposition from school administration, parents or teachers, or all of the above! There is little argument that good health is important. But health initiatives can be seen as hindrances, too much of a change of routine or not the responsibility of a school. Over the years, Cancer Council WA has heard different reasons as to why some schools are reluctant to join the Crunch&Sip and SunSmart School programs. Most of these relate to not knowing how to overcome barriers or not understanding the benefits, rather than thinking it’s a bad idea. A champion can persuade others that it’s achievable and beneficial to get involved.

Cancer Council WA also hears from many passionate advocates who have persevered to overcome resistance in their school community, resulting in healthier and happier students and staff. Here are some tips:

Be a role model

While it’s important to set a healthy example for students, other staff are also more likely to follow your lead if you walk the talk. For example, by wearing a sun protective hat while on duty and during outdoor activities, other staff may follow suit. Check out our article on role models for inspiration!

Find allies

Chances are, there’s someone else at your school who feels the same way that you do and also wants to advocate for change or improvement. It could be other staff, a parent, the school nurse, canteen manager or even students. Sharing ideas and the workload of implementing health change will increase the chance of success. Allies can also be in the form of organisations such as Cancer Council WA, who can advise on best practice, answer those tricky questions, and provide the evidence behind your case.

Know your reasons and build a case

Building a case to support your health and wellbeing initiatives can lead to a commitment of resources (time and money) from the school or parent body, and backing from others. Healthier Workplace WA have some great resources to help with building a business case/rationale that can be adapted to whole school initiatives. Key elements include:

  • Description of the problem (why are you doing this?)
  • Outline of the planned program (what do you plan to do and achieve?)
  • Description of the benefits
  • Description of the risks (what could go wrong and how can risk be minimised or managed)
  • List of resources needed
  • Outline of timeline of events
  • Evaluation strategies (how will you know if it worked?)

Visit www.healthierworkplacewa.com.au for more.

Start small (but think big)

Sometimes, lots of little or gradual changes to school practices might be needed to bring about a bigger change. For example, if you are concerned about your students eating an unhealthy diet, introducing Crunch&Sip in your classroom is a step forward. This may gradually snowball to other classes, with the ultimate aim of getting the whole school on board.

Don’t give up (even if you have to wait)

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the changes you want to make just won’t happen. Lack of administration support may mean waiting for a change in leadership. Some changes, such as replacing caps with a new school bucket hat, take time. Hang in there!


Need an ally? Contact Cancer Council WA on (08) 9212 4333 or email schools@cancerwa.asn.au