Background and Context:
Primary schools are a key setting for reducing children’s future risk of skin cancer. However in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, the State Government had not updated the school sun protection guidelines since 1997. Efforts to persuade the State Government to update the guidelines in line with current evidence had been met with resistance for over four years.
To influence the NSW State Government to ensure that all primary schools implement comprehensive sun protection measures, to reduce children’s future risk of skin cancer.
Influencing policy-makers to implement healthy public policy requires a multi-faceted approach combining pressure and persuasion. A campaign team was established with experience in skin cancer prevention, advocacy, community engagement and media. The strategy set out to build community and political support before lobbying the Minister for Education directly.
Community consultation demonstrated latent support for protecting children from the sun; the challenge was to transform this support into visible action. The advocacy campaign involved strategic research with 1,000 parents; a photo petition featuring over 2,400 community members; mobilising 74 community members to make representation on the issue to local politicians; positive media coverage; and direct lobbying to the Minister for Education.
As a result the NSW Ministry of Education consulted with Cancer Council NSW on best-practice sun protection recommendations, and released updated guidelines in June 2013. The comprehensive Sun Safety for Students guidelines direct each school community to develop and implement a comprehensive Sun Safety Action Plan.
Outcomes/What was learned:
Cross–organisational collaboration enabled an integrated advocacy campaign that significantly shifted the power balance on this issue. Community organising and media advocacy moved the issue into the public arena and convinced the State Government that the community expected them to act.