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Sun protection policy and practices in South African primary schools


* Corresponding author
1. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Climate Studies, Modelling and Environmental Health Research Group, PO Box 395, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa
2. South African Medical Research Council, Environment and Health Research Unit, PO Box 87373, Houghton, 2041, South Africa


Sun-related policies and practices of South African primary schools were assessed using a questionnaire on policies, practices, shade provision, activity scheduling and curriculum content. While all 24 participating schools reported that they did not have a written sun protection policy in place, efforts were being made. A SunSmart Schools Accreditation Programme may be beneficial. Survey responses were evaluated against 15 criteria with schools assigned a score from 0-15. The most common score was 5, no school achieved 15 and the highest score was 8. South African primary schools require significant support and resources to address sun protection among schoolchildren.


Excess exposure to solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation is associated with several adverse human health effects contributing towards the international burden of disease (1). Melanoma is the best known such consequence, with rates reportedly highest in parts of Australia and New Zealand (1). The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) whole population age standardised incidence rates per 100 000 for all ages (male and female) in 2008 were 36.6 in Australia/New Zealand, 5.6 in southern Africa (including South Africa) and 2.8 in the world (2). Recently, it has been suggested that melanoma rates in South Africa, specifically the Western Cape Province, may be as high as those reported elsewhere. The estimated figure for the Western Cape Province in 2009 was 69 new cases per year per population of 100 000 Caucasians, where the same figure for Australia was 65 per 100 000 (3). Unfortunately, more recent and reliable skin cancer statistics are difficult to obtain for South Africa. Despite these statistics, exposure to solar UV radiation has not been a significant public health concern in South Africa; however, this may be changing. South Afr ...