UWF Argo Shield project promotes sun safety in Escambia County schools
The University of West Florida Usha Kundu, MD College of Health has launched Argo Shield, an initiative to teach sun safety and promote skin cancer prevention among children in Escambia County this fall.
In Escambia County, the UV Index, which forecasts the risk of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, ranges from two to three in winter to 10+ in summer, and the rate of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer caused primarily by UV exposure, increased from 15.52 to 24.57 percent 2004 to 2014 according to the Florida Cancer Data System. In response to these findings, Argo Shield aims to provide proactive education on proper skin protection from the sun and increased awareness regarding strategies to reduce the risk of skin cancer in the local community.
Students in the UWF School of Nursing are presenting messaging and activities to approximately 4,000 students in early childhood centers, elementary and middle schools in Escambia County, as well as individuals who attend UWF outdoor sporting events.
“The Argo Shield project demonstrates one of the goals of the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health, which is to teach students while improving the health of the public,” said Dr. Brandy Strahan, interim associate dean of the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health. “We live in a prime area for sun damage and skin cancer. The Argo Shield message reminds people of the risk, and the product affords them the opportunity to start preventing sun damage immediately.”
UWF students recently visited Bratt Elementary School, and additional visits are planned to Ferry Pass Middle School, Holm Elementary School and Bailey Middle School this fall. Using the National Environmental Education Foundation SunWise curriculum, they will provide age-appropriate material and teach children the importance of protecting their skin from the sun. They will demonstrate proper sunscreen application, play learning games and provide hand outs, hats, sunscreen and lip balm, as well as a magnet and brochure for students to share with their families.
“This program was a wonderful opportunity for our students at Bratt Elementary to learn the importance of protecting their skin and eyes from the UV rays,” said Karen Hall, principal of Bratt Elementary. “The activities were age appropriate and enjoyable for all students. We appreciate the interest the UWF Usha Kundu, MD College of Health and nursing program has shown in educating the children in the north end of Escambia County.”
Casandra Waller, Ed.S., physical education, health, wellness and driver education specialist for Escambia County School District, said the program helps in meeting the physical education benchmarks for Florida, which include the topic of sun safety and understanding the importance of protecting the body from harmful sun rays.
“This is a great opportunity for students to have sun safety reinforced by someone other than their physical education teacher,” Waller said. “By educating kids on how to be proactive at a young age, we can hopefully help them in preventing skin cancer later in life. Most people don’t realize that most skin damage is done in our younger years, and this program will help empower children to take initiative in protecting their skin.”
At the UWF Education Research Center for Child Development, an early learning center on the UWF campus, children and families will receive an educational toolkit on healthy sun behaviors. Sunscreen dispensers will be placed near the exits to outdoor play areas at the center.
The UWF Usha Kundu, MD College of Health also distributes information and sunscreen samples during tailgating events for UWF home football games.
Argo Shield is currently funded by a $10,000 grant from Florida Blue. Evaluation measures and qualitative feedback will help determine the feasibility for continuing and potentially expanding the curriculum.
For more information about the Usha Kundu, MD College of Health, visit www.uwf.edu/coh.