Cancer is the second largest cause of death in Australia and accounts for approximately 27% of all deaths. Risk factors generally include exposure to sun, poor diet and smoking. Many types of cancer such as skin cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer are easily preventable by early detection and awareness; however, some cancers cannot be prevented. The National Skin Cancer Awareness Program represents the new public health approach. This is because it has been created to prevent and reduce the incidence of skin cancer among teenagers and young adults.
It takes into account the social determinants that influence a person’s health. For example, due to the sun’s very strong UV rays, Australia is a very hot country and consequently, due to the influence that the media has on young people, perceiving a tan as beautiful, teenagers tend to have more exposure to the sun. Similarly to the strategies above, the Awareness Program shows the linkage with the five action areas of the Ottawa Charter. Developing personal skills refers to the education and development of healthy personal skills to exercise control over their own health environments and to make better health choices.
Widely distributed accurate information via mass media including newspapers and television or radio advertisements provides deeper understanding of the risk of cancer and ways to personally take action and decrease the risk for yourself and the others around you. Resources about cancer prevention, treatment and support services are available in public libraries, and the development of free cancer information resources that are marketed and accessible by the whole community would also assist and educate individuals in making healthier lifestyle choices.
The Awareness Program develops personal skills to specifically reduce the risk of skin cancer by informing the community about the risk of excess sun exposure and what the underlying facts about skin cancer are. The campaign also shows the ways to prevent skin cancer (using protection and seeking shade) and what you should be doing in order to protect yourself and prevent skin cancer. The campaign additionally shows a visual representation of the appearance of the cancer and how it looks when t is removed as well as providing information on how the incidence of skin cancer within Australia is very high.
Creating supportive environments is a vital key in regards to decreasing the burden of cancer and also addressing the issue of social justice. By creating environments where people feel comfortable in making health decisions without compromising themselves is something that this action area aims to create. This area gives people an equal opportunity to live in a place where they can easily make better decisions and have the resources and facilities to do so.
For example, those who speak a language other than English, having access to newspapers and educational resources in their preferred language. The development of infrastructure such as women’s health Centre’s, walking paths, shade structures, safe and accessible pathways and cycle ways to encourage walking or riding as a mode of transport. Improving technology used in cancer diagnosis allows early and accurate cancer detection is used to help people that do have cancer to treat or cure it immediately.
Also, to maintain support for people in Australia, there is easily accessible Internet and broadband access, cancer helpline, interpreter and sign language services and cancer support groups to create a supportive environment for Australians. The program creates supportive environments by reminding the community about skin cancer through visual representation on billboards and buses as well as over the Internet, on television commercials and radio advertisement. Strengthen community action looks at improving public participation in establishing healthy choices of living.
In relation to skin cancer/melanoma, local groups are involved in lobbying for additional shading in public pools to reduce the risk of sunburn. The support of the school community with school canteens to provide more nutritious foods provides young children with more healthier options that contain anti-oxidants, which are commonly found in vegetables, and raising awareness of breast cancer through vans in the community to help prevent diseases such as cancer. Strengthening community action helps empower the community and help them to utilize the resources in the community to enhance self-help and social support.
An example of this is how a commercial with actors was made to reinforce the message to stay protected from the sun as well as another commercial where a melanoma surgeon was showing a young girl who was a victim of skin cancer and what she experienced. Commercials like these are successful because it shows that even celebrities, who are usually role models to young people, protect themselves and that anyone at any age can get skin cancer. They help people understand how big of a burden cancer really is and encourages them to come together to prevent it.
Reorienting health services in an action area that clearly focuses on funding and utilizing services to provide promotion and curative services to everyone. It places emphasis back on the health professionals to take up a more active role in education and prevention of cancer rather than remaining in their curative roles. With cancer being a painful burden of morbidity and mortality rates in Australia, the Government has needed to fund health services in order to decrease the national burden and create an equally accessible service to all.
Programs have been established to travel around to different areas and provide cancer checkups for both men and women, such as prostate checks and breast screening. These services are free and travel around to places where medical assistance would usually be difficult to access. Preventative strategies have been funded by organizations for events such as ‘Breast Cancer Week’ and ‘Smoking Kills’ campaigns. Funding for more dermatologists, and other health professionals as well as further education on early detection is also important in reducing the risk of cancer in Australia.
The Awareness Campaign reorients health services by using health funding on health promotions towards the awareness of skin cancer as well as the prevention of skin cancer rather than the cure of the disease. Building healthy public policy refers to the Government intervention concerning policies and legislation and emphasizes that individuals need to recognize the consequences of their decisions and accept their responsibility towards health. Such policies include compulsory advertisement on cigarette packaging regarding risks of lung and mouth cancer. No hat no play” regulations in schools prevent the onset of skin cancer.
Laws preventing minors under 18 years old from purchasing alcohol and tobacco and increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol also help reduce the risk of getting cancer from a young age. Smoke free legislation in workplaces, pubs, clubs and schools also help to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Also, Food standards Australia and New Zealand have developed proposals for mandatory nutrition content on food labeling to help people make informed choices about their diet.
The Program builds healthy public policy regarding skin cancer by reinforcing the message of protecting yourself against the sun as well as the policies within each environmental area (such as a school environment or a work environment). The only laws made by the government on sun protection are the Occupational Health and Safety policy for workers. Overall, the Awareness Program has proved to be both effective and ineffective. It has been ineffective in the sense that people have the attitude “It won’t happen to me” and they choose to ignore the campaign’s attempts at keeping them protected out of the sun.
Also, the media portraying tanned skin as ‘beautiful’ has become almost dominating over the campaign’s effort, resulting in a tripled incidence of skin cancer among young adults over the past decade. Alternatively, the campaign has also proven to be quite effective. Due to the increased awareness of the risk factors and appearance of skin cancer, and the improved cancer detecting technology, statistics show that over the past two decades, the death rate has fallen by 16 percent, and the survival rate has increased by 30 percent, due to education.
Courtney from Study Moose