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Children are especially vulnerable to the sun’s harmful effects as their skin is thinner and more sensitive, and even a short time outdoors in the midday sun can result in serious burns.
Children often play outdoors. By the age of 18 years, it is thought that a person has already received up to 80% of all the sun exposure of his/her life.
Sun exposure during childhood and adolescence appears to set the stage for the development of skin cancers in later life.
Children require special protection. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children, including all developmental stages from conception to age 18, have the right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to a safe environment.
Schools are vitally important settings to promote sun protection, and effective programmes can make a difference. Childhood is an excellent time to form life-long prevention habits as attitudes and lifestyle patterns are still being formed and are most malleable during this period. Key sun-protection concepts can be incorporated into various existing areas of the curriculum eg home economics, health, physical education and science. This would allow periodic reinforcement throughout the school grades, without overburdening an already full curriculum.
Schools allow for lessons learnt in the classroom to be put into practice in the schoolyard and on school excursions. School managers could support the programme by making available shaded play areas, allowing use of hats, sunscreen and sunglasses at school, promoting sun awareness education of staff, and encouraging teachers to act as role models. Outdoor activities in spring and summer could be scheduled to take place before 10.00 and after 16.00, while keeping in mind that sun-safety measures should not reduce student participation in physical activity, otherwise obesity may become an even bigger issue!
Sun-healthy habits should be extended from the school to camps, sport fields, playgrounds, swimming, tennis and sailing clubs. Parental involvement should be encouraged to ensure full cooperation at all levels.
WHO has developed a comprehensive package of materials for children’s sun protection education. It is intended for Ministries of Health and Education, as well as national and local authorities and non-governmental organizations active in the area of health promotion and sun protection programs.
ALWAYS PROTECT CHILDREN FROM THE SUN
INSTILL SENSIBLE SUN PROTECTIVE BEHAVIOUR IN CHILDREN FROM A YOUNG AGE
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