Considering the prevalence of skin cancer and skin related diseases in our country, and the fact that they are mostly a direct result of excessive sun exposure; I would argue that the Australian government does an “okay” job of raising awareness of the issue across the general population. Undeniably, most people are familiar with some of the more prominent campaigns over recent years that sought to educate on the dangers of sun exposure. This includes the infamous ‘Slip Slop Slap‘ slogan and accompanying television advertisement launched in 1981 – which has now been altered to include ‘Seek’ and ‘Slide’, sadly to the detriment of the “ring” slogan – which came about at a time when knowledge of the link between UV radiation and skin cancer was only just beginning to surface and become widely known. It remains one of the most successful health campaigns in our country’s history; however, since then, there really hasn’t been much in the way of ‘groundbreaking society changing’ campaigns since, most likely because everyone now knows of the dangers and links to sun exposure and cancer. So the job is really only half done.
It is inexplicable and irresponsible that with skin cancer rates continuing to rise, despite this abundance of information and advice available to Australians, that more is not being done to curb the trend. Awareness is clearly not enough, so I say the government is only doing an “okay” job of addressing this issue for the key fact that they seem to be failing to target the real core of the issue, or at least what I perceive it to be. There is a blatantly obvious stigma among Australians, particularly young people (and it is when you are young that you do the most significant and long lasting damage to your skin), that being tanned is more attractive. This is what needs to be changed. It will be hard as it is truly engrained in many Western societies, a remnant of social class categorisation from centuries ago, that is doing so much harm to the health of our society. Admittedly, the more recent ‘The Dark Side of Tanning – There’s nothing healthy about a tan‘ campaign by the NSW government scraped the surface of the issue, at least in identifying its existence. But again, this is not enough. There needs to be a real and proactive push for this change, for us to get amongst young people, through education and involvement, to change this attitude. Fashion magazines/idols/role models could and should all play a part because at the end of the day, they are what help drive superficial trends anyway.
So this is where Shun the Sun comes in. This is what sets it apart from just being a ‘sun protection awareness’ campaign. I want to go deeper, I want to try to change society’s deeply engrained views of tanning, to really achieve a change that will finally see a dip in skin cancer rates.