Sun-protection counseling by medical staff ineffective

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Research shows that sun-protection behaviors carried out by 9 to 16-year-old children are not significantly influenced by sun-protection counseling by pediatricians.

Instead, June Robinson (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA) and colleagues found that parental sun protection, parental perception of skin cancer risk, and parental sun-protection self-efficacy were the most significant factors influencing children's sun-protection behavior.

"Communication with parents in a way that incorporates the principles of motivational interviewing may be more effective in promoting behavioral change than admonitions to use sunscreen," suggest Robinson and co-authors in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The researchers selected three Chicago area practices from which 30 staff (seven pediatricians; 23 nurses - 90% of total staff) agreed to be interviewed. Parents of the 9 to 16-year-old children (n=301 across three practices) from each practice were asked if they would complete a survey about their child's sun-protection behavior and 87% returned completed forms.

Sun-protection counseling by healthcare staff occurred frequently and was prompted by parental request, performing a summer camp physical examination, and the child having suffered sunburn.

No significant association between sun-protection counseling and sun-protection behavior in children aged 9 to 16 years was observed following adjustment for age, gender, and skin tone.

However, parental knowledge and sun-protection behavior significantly influenced the sun-protection practices of their children.

The team notes that children who took part in frequent outdoor sports activities had double the risk for sunburn and were twice as likely to use inadequate sun protection as children who did not participate in outdoor sports.

"Children of parents who are vigilant about modeling sun safe behaviors are likely to adopt sun safe practices when assuming responsibility for their own skin protection," say Robinson and co-workers.

"For this reason, sun protection for children needs to be aimed at parents as well as children," they emphasize.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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