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Sun safe policy protects Nova Scotia children

Nova Scotia’s little ones are a lot more sun safe thanks to a partnership between the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition and the Department of Community Services.

“Sun safety is an important part of a safe outdoor play space,” notes Shelley Thompson, the Department’s Coordinator of Child Care Centres, Policy and Program Development. 
Sun safe policy
“The guidelines of the Department’s Program Policy related to sun safety practices in Nova Scotia’s child care centres reflect the key messages that have been sent out to the child care sector as part of a sun safety resource package.”

The Daily Program Policy, which became effective in September 2009, informs child care operators about the importance of sun safety strategies to help the children in their care remain sun safe. This includes:

•ensuring all adults and children wear protective gear including hats with brims, sun glasses and lightweight clothing made of tightly woven fabric to protect the skin;
•making certain that while outside, all children and adults can access shaded areas;
•planning outdoor activities for the early morning and late afternoon; and
•having all adults and children apply adequate sun block with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin before going outside.

“The inclusion of this sun safe information also informs staff and parents with respect to best practices regarding sun safety,” says Virginia O’Connell, Director of Early Childhood Development Services.  “This policy is an important component in helping to do that.”

Community Services is a member of the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition, which is coordinated by Cancer Care Nova Scotia  and chaired by Dr. Laura Finlayson, Head of Dermatology at the QEII Health Sciences Centre and IWK Health Centre.  “Our goal is to make sun safety the easy choice for children and their caregivers,” says Judy Purcell, Prevention Coordinator with CCNS. When Early Childhood Development Services implements a program policy that includes messages about sun safety, it becomes a sustained effort – part of the daily practice.

“It’s this kind of systemic change that will not only protect the very young,” she adds. “But over time it will result in a cultural shift in how Nova Scotians think about tanning.”

“Early sun safe practices can help prevent or reduce the incidence of skin cancer in Nova Scotia, which has one of the highest rates of melanoma in Canada,” says Dr. Finlayson. “In Nova Scotia 39 new cases of malignant melanoma per 100,000 population are expected in 2009.  These rates are higher than the Canadian average (25 new cases per 100,000 population).”

Sun safety – and specifically the issue of shade – will be further explored at a workshop being coordinated by the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition in March 2010. Representatives from the education, recreation and early childhood development sectors are coming together to identify barriers and solutions. 

“Skin cancer remains one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in Canada, and sun exposure is the main environmental cause of skin cancer,” says Dr. Finlayson.

Thanks to the Department of Community Services new program policy, young children in Nova Scotia’s child care centres will be playing sun safe.

The Department of Community Services has provided the resource booklet: Play it Sun Safe: Guidelines and Best Practices for Sun Safety in Nova Scotia’s Child Care Centres to all licensed child care centres in the province. This is part of a resource package to enable sun safe practices among young children in Nova Scotia child care centres. The booklet was developed in partnership with the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition and Early Childhood Development Services.

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