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Guidelines for Schools

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These prominent national and international organizations have created guidelines for bringing sun safety into school districts and schools all are concerned with keeping students safe from overexposure to UV rays and have developed guidelines to help you assemble your own sun safety policy.

CDC Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer
Published in 2002 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report consolidates much of the existing research about creating effective school polices to prevent skin cancer. This report is used extensively by experts creating sun safety policies and it provides seven guidelines for schools. more>>>

NASBE’s Fit Healthy and Ready to Learn: School Health Policy Guide
In its school health policy guide called Fit, Healthy and Ready to Learn, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) specifically developed Part II to outline an extensive sample sun safety policy. The sample policy includes intent, instructional program design, program requirements that address outdoor activities and school environments as well as education for school staff, family and community involvement. more>>>

WHO’s Intersun Programme
Through the Intersun Programme, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed several publications to help policy makers create education programs to protect students from overexposure to UV rays. more>>>

Other guidelines for district health policies:

Coordinated School Health Program (CSHP)
Created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the program model promotes a comprehensive school health program by coordinating eight different agencies usually involved in school health. This encourages healthier schools and students, and is being adopted by schools across the nation. Teaching sun safety is an integral part of CSHP and can be incorporated into all of the eight comprehensive components. more>>>

Local Wellness Policy
This national law requires every school district participating in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program to establish a local wellness policy by the beginning of School Year 2006-2007. With policies that must address increasing healthy nutrition and physical activity in schools, now is a great time to include sun safety policy as an aspect of overall student wellness. more>>>

Guidelines for sun safety programs to protect employees:

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA)
Worried about sun safety for your staff? To protect staff from the harms of UV radiation, OSHA has developed a handout for worksites and workers with information about skin cancer, how to detect it early, and tips to stay protected while working outside. more>>>

CDC Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer
You can use the following seven guidelines from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer to help you shape the development and implementation of your own district policy to prevent skin cancer among school students and staff.

Adobe Acrobat An electronic version of this report is available on the CDC website.

Guideline 1: Policy - Establish policies that reduce exposure to UV radiation.

Guideline 2: Environmental Change - Provide and maintain physical and social environments that support sun safety and that are consistent with the development of other healthy habits.

Guideline 3: Education - Provide health education to teach students the knowledge, attitudes and behavioral skills they need to prevent skin cancer. The education should be age-appropriate and linked to opportunities for practicing sun-safety behaviors.

Guideline 4: Family Involvement - Involve family members in skin cancer prevention efforts.

Guideline 5: Professional Development - Include skin cancer prevention knowledge and skills in preservice and inservice education for school administrators, teachers, coaches, school nurses and others who work with students.

Guideline 6: Health Services - Complement and support skin cancer prevention education and sun safety environments and policies with school health services.

Guideline 7: Evaluations - Periodically evaluate whether schools are implementing the guidelines on policies, environmental change, educations, families, professional development and health services.

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National Association of State Boards of Education’s Fit, Healthy and Ready to Learn: School Health Policy Guide addresses several important school health policy changes schools can make. In the supplementary chapter, Part II: Policies to Promote Sun Safety and Prevent Skin Cancer, an extensive sample sun safety policy is outlined and discussed. The sample policies are available on the NASBE website. The document that discusses these policies must be ordered.

When creating a policy, NASBE recommends the consideration and inclusion of five main elements:

  1. Purpose and goals: Include a strong statement of purpose to explain the initiative to the public and to communicate your priorities.
  2. Sun safety education: Taught by adequately prepared teachers, education should be active, positive, engaging, and appropriate to ages, concerns and behaviors of the students. It can be integrated with the school’s coordinated school health program.
  3. Outdoor activities and the school environment: Address sun protective measures for outdoor activities such as recess, lunch, sports, band practice and field trips. Also consider creating more shade on school grounds with trees or shade structures and scheduling outdoor time when UV rays are less intense.
  4. Sun safety for staff: School staff act as good sun safety role models to students. Thus they should learn sun safe habits and help teach them to students. Learning about sun safety will also keep staff protected from the effects of UV exposure such as premature aging, wrinkles, skin cancer and cataracts. In addition, school nurses can counsel students about good sun protection measures.
  5. Family and community involvement: School health programs must involve parent participation if they are to be successful. Parents encourage the healthy behavior in their children and help them adopt sun safe habits.

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WHO Intersun Programme
Through the Intersun Programme, the World Health Organization addresses the importance of providing sun safety programs for school age children. The Intersun Programme not only significant amount of online educational literature about UV radiation exposure, but it also provides several informative publications including:

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Coordinated School Health Program
Coordinated School Health Programs consist of eight interactive components. Sun safety elements can be incorporated into each piece:

  1. Health Education: Curriculum provided by qualified, trained teachers over a planned sequential K-12 scope and sequence can teach students accurate sun safety information and techniques. Sun safety activities can be incorporated into many different subjects. The best way to create a successful prevention program is to teach sun safety in a variety of different ways throughout the student’s K-12 years.
  2. Physical Education: Often physical education includes outdoor activity. Encourage schools to schedule time outdoors during times of lower UV exposure or require students to wear sun protective clothing and sunscreen when they’re outdoors. Helping students develop healthy sun safe practices at school will help them be sun safe in other areas of their lives as well.
  3. Health Services: Nurses, doctors and dermatologists can visit the school to speak and answer questions about the dangers of overexposure to UV rays.
  4. Nutrition Services: Vitamin D, a necessary nutrient which prevents rickets and may even decrease cancer risk, is produced in the skin after sun exposure. The benefits and detriments of sun exposure should be discussed in tandem with an emphasis that Vitamin D production in the body does not take long and people should avoid overexposure.
  5. Counseling and Psychological Services: Some students will be more open to adapting sun safety skills while others may resist a modified way of dressing because it does not fit with popular culture. It is important to create a social environment in which personal health decisions are supported and encouraged.
  6. Healthy School Environment: Overexposure to UV rays is detrimental to student health and well being. Efforts should be made to eliminate exposure to this recognized carcinogen by encouraging sun safe behaviors in students and staff, as well as scheduling outdoor time creatively and building shade structures or planting trees where appropriate.
  7. Health Promotion for Staff: Not only are staff members great role models for students in their own sun safe practices, but teaching staff members about the harms of sun exposure creates a healthier environment for employees and can help keep health costs down.
  8. Family/Community Involvement: Support from parents is integral to the success of a sun safety program. Parents can help students remember to apply sunscreen and bring sun protective clothing to school. Parents and community members can also help the school pass sun safety policy with their school board.

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Local Wellness Policy
A portion of every wellness policy should include sun safety. Sun safe practices should be employed whenever children go outdoors for physical education, recess and lunch, or to participate in school sports, band practice and field trips. In addition, skin cancer education, prevention and detection methods should be discussed in an overall student wellness plan.

If you are working on, or completing your district’s Local Wellness Policy, now is a great time to address sun safety. Sun safety can work alongside a wellness policy or be integrated directly into the policy you create.

Option 1 - A comprehensive sun safety policy
The goal of the Local Wellness Policy is to promote student health and wellness. A sun safety policy can be introduced along with nutrition and physical activity policy to improve the overall health and wellness of the district. For more information on writing a comprehensive sun safety policy, visit Make it Policy.

Option 2 - Physical activity addendum
Often, physical activity education occurs outdoors where students are exposed to ultraviolet radiation. You can help protect students while they exercise with a sun safety addendum to the physical activity policy.

For more on the Local Wellness Policy please visit the USDA’s website:

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Occupational Safety and Health Administration Sun Safety Guidelines (OSHA)

  1. Cover up. Wear tightly-woven clothing that blocks out light. Try this test: Place your hand between a single layer of the clothing and a light source. If you can see your hand through the fabric, the garment offers little protection.
  2. Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93% of UV rays. You want to block both UVA and UVB rays to guard against skin cancer. Be sure to follow application directions on the bottle.
  3. Wear a hat. A wide brim hat (not a baseball cap) is ideal because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp.
  4. Wear UV -absorbent shades. Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive, but they should block 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation.
  5. Limit exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 am and 4 pm. If you’re unsure about the sun’s intensity, take the shadow test: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are the day’s strongest.

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