Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation during childhood is a significant determinant of lifetime skin cancer risk, but can be mitigated through primary schools' adoption of appropriate sun protection policies and practices. The present study aimed to evaluate the changes in these policies and practices in Australia, and to assess the impact of the National SunSmart Schools Program.
A random sample of primary schools were selected in 2011 and 2016 (N = 1577, 1533), and asked to complete a survey describing their current sun protection policies and practices. Significant changes across the study period, and relative to previously reported data from 2005, were identified.
Sun protection policies and practices remained relatively stable over the period, although there was a notable decrease in incorporating sun protection material into the curriculum. SunSmart membership was associated with a significantly greater likelihood of several policies and practices being employed. The launch of the SunSmart program in New South Wales was linked with significant improvements to sun protection practices, relative to other states and territories.
The National SunSmart Schools program continues to have a substantial impact in supporting the adoption of appropriate sun protection policies and their practical implementation.
Even small changes to sun protection practices in Australian primary schools can have a major positive impact on long‐term health outcomes. SunSmart membership can be leveraged to broaden existing policies and practices, targeting priority areas such as shade provision and the incorporation of sun protection into school curriculum.