Monday 7 February 2011

Review Summary: Sun Protection

This policy was reviewed in term 4 2010 by parents, staff, and board and resulted in a large number of reviews.

We are happy to note that our policy stood up well to thorough scrutiny and we have made only a couple of changes to it. These changes are more to clarify or expand points in the policy rather than change any content. We thank Jane Armstrong, SunSmart Schools Programme Coordinator, from the Cancer Society of New Zealand for her review and recommendations.

Many people commented that the policy should be active all year round and not for only part of the day. The fact is that when we talk about sun protection we’re really talking about the ultra violet radiation from the sun (UVR) and the UVR levels in New Zealand are high during the middle of the day from October to March. Although there are very hot days outside of those times and days, they do not normally have levels of UVR that we need protection against. There are cloudy, cool, and showery days during the daylight saving months too – and the UVR levels remain high then. People stay outside longer in cooler weather but unless they are taking the sun protection steps outlined in our policy, they are being exposed to high levels of UVR.

The levels of UVR vary during the day but are highest between 11 am and 4 pm so these are the times we have used as “default” in the policy. If a school wishes to have different times on their policy, they can let us know and we will change it for their school.

While it is important to be aware of the harmful effects of UVR exposure, it’s just as important to know and enjoy the benefits of sunshine. All year round we need exposure to the sun and need to develop sunsmart habits that allow us to gain the benefits of sunlight and protect ourselves from harmful UVR exposure. Some benefits of being in the sun:

The sun not only provides the all important vitamin D but also promotes healing, improves the body’s immune system, enhances mood, and lifts athletic performance. “Outlawing” all sun exposure for terms 1 and 4 is unnecessary and possibly sends the wrong message.

There were comments that the guidelines are biased towards fair skinned people and that for darker skinned people our guidelines are overly cautious. We don’t think so, especially as we’re not talking about keeping totally out of the sun. It’s true that fair skins burn more easily, but dark skins also suffer from sun damage and premature aging. Overexposure to high levels of UVR still damages the immune system, and the eyes. Also, while it’s true that darker skinned people develop fewer skin cancers than fair skinned people, they do still develop some and are often diagnosed later when the disease is more advanced. For these reasons we feel that learning and following sun protection strategies is important for every person in New Zealand.

Eye protection was also a concern for some people. The damage that UVR does to eyes is well documented. The benefits of sunglasses for children is less clear (it’s thought that children need some exposure to UVR to develop protection against eye problems) and the logistics issues no doubt nightmarish for schools to contemplate. Sunhats (with at least a 6 cm brim) provide significant protection to the eyes. Individual schools may wish to provide and/or promote sunglasses for their students and we leave that decision to them.

There was a lot of feedback about schools’ implementation of the policy and we urge boards and principals to discuss their specific implementation feedback and report back to their communities about issues raised.

It’s important for parents who have taken the effort to review policies to feel that they have been counted and their voices heard. We were pleased to see so much engagement from school communities for this review.

1 comment:

SchoolDocs Administrator said...

In September 2012 we were advised by the Cancer Society of New Zealand that they recommended sun protection between 10 am and 4 pm in the light of new research. We changed our default times from their previously recommended 11 am to 10 am.