Overexposure to Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) in childhood is a significant predictor of skin cancer in later life. It is important then that early childhood services have comprehensive sun protection policies and practices in place to prevent skin damage to the children in their care. The National Early Childhood Sun Protection Survey was first implemented in 2008 to investigate the sun protection practices used by early childhood services across Australia, and was conducted for the second time in 2013.
To provide an overview of sun protection policies and practices in early childhood services across Australia in 2013, and to monitor changes in sun protection practices since 2008.
Approximately 15% of services in Australia were randomly selected to participate in an online survey, and 1037 services participated (response rate of 59%).
Results indicated a high level of engagement with sun protection practices across Australian early childhood services. There were significant increases from 2008 to 2013 in the proportion of services that required the use of sunscreen, sun protective hats and sun protective clothing, although uptake of these measures varied across the different Australian states and territories. Almost half (49%) of services indicated that the issue of vitamin D and sun exposure had been raised at their service in the past year.
The improvements in early childhood sun protection practices in Australia since 2008 suggest that there is now a greater understanding of the importance of sun protection in early childhood. However, variation in use of sun protection practices across the Australian states and territories demonstrates the importance of each state/territory government endorsing comprehensive sun protection in early childhood services. Widespread concerns regarding vitamin D highlight the need for clear communication as to how to protect children’s skin from the sun whilst safely achieving adequate vitamin D.