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Sun protection program increases hat use among 4th graders
Date:3/26/2010

out the importance of sunscreen, but educational sessions throughout the school year emphasized the added benefits of hats for sun protection. Researchers measured voluntary hat use at school by direct observation, and hat use at home was monitored by student self-report. A subgroup of 378 students (178 in the intervention group and 200 in the control group) were examined for any changes in skin pigment melanin and in number of moles on the skin. More melanin, or more or larger moles, indicates sun damage.

At control schools, the percentage of students observed wearing hats while playing outside (activities like recess, physical education and lunch) essentially did not change during the school year. At the intervention schools, overall hat use increased by 42 percent during the school year ranging from little change at a few schools to a high of 75 percent.

"We're trying to make wearing hats a cool and popular thing to do as well as an acceptable health behavior, so it was encouraging to see that hat use didn't decline after the initial spike at the beginning. It actually increased as the school year wore on." Dr. Roetzheim said.

When teachers and principals more fully embraced sun protection as a way to prevent skin damage and modeled this behavior by wearing hats themselves, their students were more likely to comply with hat use, the researchers suggested. Several highly-motivated schools had been touched by skin cancer the faculty knew someone who suffered the disease, including another teacher or a coach, Dr. Roetzheim said.

While getting students to wear hats at school was largely a success, this preventive behavior did not carry over to home and other places outside school. Dr. Roetzheim explains that the program was primarily geared toward students and teachers at school, and future sun protection projects should more intensely target family members and peers. "To improve the likelihood of children wearing hats in othe
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Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
abaier@health.usf.edu
813-974-3300
University of South Florida Health
Source:Eurekalert  

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