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Vital Ozone Graphics

9 Mobilization 4: Sun Protection and Sensitization Projects

These days most children know they have to protect their skin from damage by the sun. This is the result of successful communication and information campaigns in schools and the media all over the world.

The increased UV radiation reaching our planet through the diminishing ozone layer can have a widespread, dramatic effect on our health. But the remedy is comparatively easy, using sun screen or proper clothing to protect our skin, and sunglasses for our eyes. It is consequently all the more important to educate people widely so that they adopt these simple measures.

Sun-safe programmes have been introduced in virtually every country where the risk to the population has increased.

Particular credit is due to the UV index (UVI), an international public awareness initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO) that encourages consistent reporting on news and weather bulletins about the levels of UV radiation received at the local level. Newspapers in many countries now publish a UVI forecast using a standard graphic format.

Awareness campaigns accompanying the index provide people with a clear indication of the necessary protective measures. Initiatives may take various forms: the Australian authorities, for instance, issue awards to local authorities providing the most shade for their citizens. Successful campaigns clearly distinguish between different target audiences, such as schoolchildren, farmers and outdoor workers. To raise the awareness of children from an early age regarding the potentially damaging effects of the sun’s rays and appropriate protective measures, educational media use cartoon characters such as Ozzy Ozone (UNEP/Barbados), Sid Seagull (Australia) and Top, l’Imprudente (Switzerland).

Another important reason why people began to pay attention to skin protection is because awareness of the dangerous consequences of not covering up, i.e., skin cancer, grew steadily. The media readily broadcasted the alarming study results the reported fast rising incidence of melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

And why have governments made such widespread efforts to raise public awareness of the dangers associated with excessive exposure to UV radiation? Apart from their sincere concern for public health, there is a clear financial incentive. For example, skin cancer costs the Australian health service about US$ 245 million a year, the largest amount for any cancer. The risk of Australians suffering from melanoma is four times higher than for their US, Canadian or UK counterparts. Based on the observed increased incidence in skin cancers and models taking into account projections of further ozone loss in the future, the government calculated that savings on medical spending would likely far exceed the cost of an awareness-building campaign.

Story ideas
#7a. Could shoehorn ozone education into a broader feature piece about the growth of environmental education worldwide, how children are agents of change in the family, and how behavior changes as a result – more skin cream, more recycling, (UN Decade on Sustainable Development) etc.

#7b. What are the keys to success for UV protection programmes?

#7c. What are the reasons for such intensive coverage of UV protection programmes in many countries?