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Becoming more sun safe and sun smart

Organizations, communities and governments across Nova Scotia are coming together to address an important health issue: sun safety.

Seven years ago the Sun Safe Nova Scotia (SSNS) coalition, coordinated by Cancer Care Nova Scotia, was formed. Since then important steps have been taken to inform and inspire individuals and groups to think – and act – safely while out in the hot, sunny weather.

“We work with agencies and organizations to help them establish environments that fun in the sunencourage sun safety,” says Judy Purcell, Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s Prevention Coordinator. “In establishing sun safety policies, organizations are helping to protect staff, volunteers, clients and participants – including children.”

As a result of the coalition’s efforts, 12 municipal recreation programs across the province have adopted written sun-safety policies and 16 have strengthened their safety practice and are displaying sun safety signage in recreational areas.

The Department of Community Services, a member of the coalition, has also established sun safety as part of its Daily Program Policy for Regulated Child Care Settings in Nova Scotia.

It was Sun Safe Nova Scotia that first recommended tanning bed legislation almost six years ago. Today, that legislation is a reality. For young people like Brogan Moore, a grade 12 student in Halifax, this legislation may be life saving. “It’s very important,” she says. “People are destroying their skin. They have the wrong impression about tanning beds. They believe they’re safe.”

Brogan found out about the dangers of tanning beds, and the new legislation, as a member of a Sun Safe Nova Scotia committee.  “I learned a lot, and I told a lot of friends” she says. “Some people didn’t want the information. They think being tanned is the same as being beautiful.”

That’s why the legislation is so critical, says Georgina Moore, Brogan’s mom. “Young people don’t believe the beds are unsafe. This will help to protect them.”

Parents, she adds, will also become more aware about tanning beds and skin cancer as a result. “It’s a learning curve – and a shift in our thinking. People today won’t ride a bike without wearing a helmet. When I grew up, we never did that.”

Sun Safe Nova Scotia is now preparing to launch a new public health toolkit targeting junior and senior high school students across the province. “The Tan-free graduation tool kit will be available to Youth Health Centre Coordinators and others working in the school system later this year,” says Judy. “Our goal is to engage youth in taking leadership on this issue.”

The toolkit will provide factual information, resources and activities to increase knowledge and begin to challenge youth attitudes about tanning, including artificial tanning.

“The new program will help reach junior and senior high school students who currently have a very positive view of tanning,” says Judy.

That view is starting to shift thanks to the efforts of Sun Safe Nova Scotia and young people like Brogan Moore.