Pictured above: staff and children at SunSmart centre, Billabong Community Early Learning Centre
WA's youngsters who attend childcare are officially the most SunSmart bunch in the state.
Results from our 2018 National Early Childhood Sun Protection Survey show WA children in the 0-5 age group who attend day care have near perfect sun protection.
Records show sun protection practices in WA childcare services are of a high standard, with close to 100 per cent now requiring children in their care to:
- Wear sun protective clothing (94 per cent)
- Wear a hat that protects their head from the sun (96 per cent)
- Wear sunscreen when the UV is at damaging levels (98 per cent)
Additionally, 97 per cent of centres have enough shade and 96 per cent of WA centres check UV (ultraviolet) Index levels every day.
According to Cancer Council WA SunSmart Manager Mark Strickland, the high sun protection standard in WA's childcare sector is already having a noticeable impact on the long term health of children.
"As a result of the work done in childcare centres and schools in WA, over the past 20 years we've seen a downturn in melanoma rates in people in the 15 to 39 age group," Mr Strickland said.
"Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with two in three people developing skin cancer in their lifetime. Childhood is a critical period when sun exposure is likely to contribute to skin cancer later in life, so instilling these behaviours early on will help avoid nasty skin cancers down the track.
"It's also fantastic to hear children are taking the message home. Currently just 32 per cent of WA adults wear sun protective clothing in Summer and only 53 per cent wear a hat. If we followed the lead of the youngest members of our community we'd all be better off.
"Based on these figures, it' s likely that the childcare sector in WA is providing significantly better protection from UV radiation than any other group in WA."
Billabong Community Early Learning Centre, East Victoria Park
Billabong Community Early Learning Centre in East Victoria Park (pictured above) has been a member of Cancer Council WA's SunSmart Centres Program since it began in 2005.
According to Billabong Centre Manager Shani Seneviratne, sun protection is just a natural part of every day for staff and children.
"Being SunSmart is part of our routine. As soon as we open the door for play time outside, the children go and get their hats," Ms Seneviratne explained.
"Every morning we check the UV forecast for the day - if it's going to be extreme we find active activities for the children to do inside, rather than taking them outdoors.
"We teach our children how to apply sunscreen properly and have a sunscreen station with a mirror to help them re-apply in the morning and afternoon as it wears off during the course of the day while they're running around and playing.
"We also encourage parents to get involved in the routine by supplying broadbrim hats for their children to wear and applying sunscreen before they arrive at Billabong."
Mum, Niamh Egan, said her daughters Emily and Lillian love the program.
"Billabong has taught our children the importance of being sun safe - they are encouraged to apply sunscreen and wear hats. Our children even remind us to do the same at home."
Wise Preschool, Carine
Wise Preschool in Carine is a family owned and operated centre for children aged 3 and 4 years old, and a member of Cancer Council WA's SunSmart Centres Program.
For owner Lisa Mackenzie, protecting kids from future skin cancers has personal significance.
"One of my family members has recently got the all-clear for melanoma, so I think it's important to make sure children are covered up," Ms Mackenzie explained.
"Children at Wise Preschool are taught early on the importance of wearing hats, and children can apply sunscreen to themselves.
"As a SunSmart Centre, our staff lead by example and wear broad-brimmed hats. We find that parents are supportive of the SunSmart message too."
Parent Alycia Simmonds appreciates that Wise backs up the sun protection behaviours she has instilled at home.
"My daughter Isabella has no issues wearing a hat or sunscreen. She sees staff at Wise doing the same and sometimes even reminds us to do the same on weekends."
Find out more about the SunSmart Program
Cancer Council WA's SunSmart Early Childhood Program assists child care centres to develop and maintain sun protection policies and put them into action. Of WA's 1200 Early Childhood Centres, 440 are registered in the SunSmart program.
More information about the SunSmart Schools program
More about skin cancer
- Approximately 12,000 Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer each year
- Skin cancers account for 79 per cent of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia
- 2000 people die from skin cancer in Australia each year
- Over-exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun is the primary risk factor for skin cancer
- Limiting UVR exposure during early childhood can significantly reduce the risk of developing skin cancer
- When the UV is 3 or above, sun protection is required. This occurs every day in most parts of WA
Our SunSmart Schools Coordinator Sally Blane spoke to 6PR's Oliver Peterson about how WA's schools and childcare centres are doing in the SunSmart stakes: