Avoiding Overexposure

One method for determining priorities takes the identified needs and juxtaposes them against each other. So, the group will determine what’s more important — A vs. B, F vs. G, G vs. A, and so on.

“I told the facilitator that I could tell he didn’t live in Montgomery, because shade beats anything else. We would rather have shade than a slide, so we set out to effect the construction of a playground with great shade,” says Spain.

“The motivation for shade was the safety of the children and the enjoyment of the adults who have to be on-site watching their children. What adult wants to sit in the sun at 90 degrees, 80 percent humidity?”

Currently, the playground has a post-and-sail tension fabric structure, a pavilion shade structure and surrounding trees. The sail-like, tri-piece fabric shade structure allows air to easily flow through it.

Plans are in the works to construct another sail-like shade structure over a couple of the larger play structures, providing additional shade on the playground itself. Spain says that while the shade structure serves its most important duty, its style is whimsical and fun, reflecting the playground’s primary purpose.

Still, as Spain says, the kids’ safety and health is a primary consideration. Local dermatologist John Anthony contributed to the project as the dedication to protecting children and parents from the sun dovetailed nicely into what he’s been preaching for years.

“We see people coming in every day with skin cancer. You get about 80 percent of your sun exposure prior to the age of 18 and about one in three Americans will get some type of skin cancer in their life,” says Dr. Anthony. “Any protection we can provide, particularly for children, from direct sun exposure will make a big difference down the road in their risk for developing skin cancer.”

Dr. Anthony says that current skin cancer numbers should begin to come down over the next few years thanks to greater awareness about the risks. However, those numbers won’t actually be realized until 20 or 30 years from now.

“Unfortunately, it’s a long process. As with decreased smoking rates it takes a long time before you see the lung cancer rates come down because there’s such a delayed response,” says Dr. Anthony.

Dr. Anthony recommends a double-dose of sun protection — sunscreen and sun shade. On one hand, you can’t always be assured of shade, and you can’t wear a full body suit in the heat of the summer.

On the other, sunscreen’s protection can only go so far.

“People think they can put sunscreen on in the morning and it will protect them all day. But really, sunscreen should be your backup. Your primary should be some sort of physical barrier — like a broad-brim hat, a lightweight long-sleeve shirt or some sort of shade structure — anything that will directly block the sun. For exposed areas, you need sunscreen and you need to reapply it several times during the day,” says Dr. Anthony.

“Several companies are making lightweight clothing and shirts and there’s some swimwear with sleeves available that won’t slow you down. In Australia, their national awareness program is Slip, Slop, Slap — Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat, so it all goes together.”

The dermatology association — The American Academy of Dermatology — provides further information, including grant possibilities for playgrounds and public structures at www.aad.org.

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  4. Fast Facts About Skin Cancer
  5. Sporting Shade

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