The Center of Disease Control ranks Washington and Idaho among the highest in mortality and morbidity rates related to skin cancer, including melanoma. It is hard to pinpoint the reason for these statistics, but the need for sun safety education remains.
Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery, located in Spokane, WA, and Coeur d’Alene, ID, is taking steps to educate youth and ultimately the greater community. Kathy LejaMeyer, ARNP at Advanced Dermatology, shares how she and her colleagues are working to make sun protection a priority in local schools.
Advanced Dermatology wants to “Stop the Burn” by introducing hats into early elementary grades (K-2) of schools in the Spokane / Coeur d’Alene area to be worn during recess. Scientifically, it is widely regarded that peak exposure to UVA/UVB rays is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Accumulation of these rays during recess, starting at young ages, can set children up for skin cancer down the road.
We piloted a Coolibar School Sun Hat Program in the kindergarten center in Spokane, WA this past Spring (2011) coordinating with skin cancer awareness month in May. Teachers, administrators and the school nurses embraced this outreach and wove in the SunWise curriculum, an EPA sponsored program, to increase awareness among the students. Our physicians and staff read “Skin Sense”, chanted our “Stop the BURN” song with the kids and smiled as the students repeated “3 things they can do to keep sun safe” prior to running out to the playground.
Raising money for a Coolibar School Sun Hat Program:
The hardest part of a good cause—even a great cause—is keeping it sustainable. Advanced Dermatology considers this a work in progress. This year, we teamed with the renown Coeur d’Alene Resort for a “gives back” golf tournament in which all sponsorship monies and $25 / participant goes back to our fundraising effort. The concept is great, but budget a lot of time and ensure you have a strong committee to reach out to the community, connect with your patient base and engage supporting physicians and providers. Again and again you will hear the first year is the hardest, but connections you make are significant. We are also considering other fundraising options, such as selling parents passes for a day in the park with a bouncy house, to include this target group (ages 5-8) and provide increased community education and involvement. Advanced Dermatology would also like to institute a “Hat Club,” providing an office fund and opportunity for patients to purchase a hat for a student.
From proceeds earned, we want to get hats into various elementary schools each year in both Spokane, Washington and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Our hope is to gain parental and community support that eventually, purchasing a Coolibar hat to be worn during recess is just as normal as purchasing pencils and erasers. Just as it is widely regarded to wear a helmet while riding a bike or clicking your seatbelt in the car, it is our goal to incite the value of sun protection and skin cancer awareness with a hat in place while running out for recess.
We have partnered with a respected company in sun protection, Coolibar, for the purchase of the hats and adopted the SunAWARE slogan highly regarded by the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology and World Health Organization. We count ourselves most fortunate to communicate this message to our community.
- Kathy LejaMeyer, ARNP, Advanced Dermatology and Skin Surgery
Sun Safe Song: Chant of sorts…kids repeat each line
Sunny or a cloudy day,
I will go outside and play.
With a hat upon my head,
Sunscreen on, I won’t turn red.
Sunscreen, yes indeed,
Helps me, keep wrinkle free.
Hat on, I have learned,
Helps me, Stop the BURN!