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Kiwi Kids’ Time In Summer Sun To Be Tracked

24 June 2004

Kiwi Kids’ Time In Summer Sun To Be Tracked With Hi-Tech Uv Badges

Results of new research that aims to measure how much sunshine Kiwi school children soak up during a summer week could help to lower New Zealand’s high skin cancer rates.

The University of Otago and the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) today announced the launch of a new collaborative project aimed at measuring New Zealand school children’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and identifying ways to reduce excess and harmful exposure.

NIWA scientist, Dr Greg Bodeker says the innovative project will bring together physicists from NIWA and social scientists from the University’s Social & Behavioural Research in Cancer Group to create a unique research team. “The team’s diverse make-up means strategies to change children’s behaviour and social contexts will be informed by fundamental atmospheric science.”

Dr Bodeker and Dr Richard McKenzie, who leads UV research at NIWA, are co-principal investigators on this project, along with Dr Tony Reeder, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at Otago’s Dunedin School of Medicine.

About 1,000 school children from regions throughout the country will be invited to wear an electronic badge that records their UV exposure, says Dr Reeder. “The children will record their activities in a diary for a week, and they’ll complete a questionnaire about their sun-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.”

The data gathered from the badges and the activity diaries will be used to help develop health promotion programmes for New Zealand children, he says.

The three-year project is funded by the Cancer Society of New Zealand in recognition of its value to health research and, in particular, skin cancer prevention.

The innovative badges, and the software to run them, have been designed by Lincoln High School teacher Martin Allen, in consultation with NIWA scientists. Mr Allen received a Teacher Fellowship from the Royal Society last year to undertake this work at the University of Canterbury.

Dr Reeder says the project is the “first of its kind to be undertaken among New Zealand school children, and will make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the links between UV exposure, the activities being undertaken, and other social and environmental factors.”

Caradee Wright, an Otago University PhD student from South Africa, has been awarded a prestigious National Research Foundation (NRF South Africa) scholarship to come to New Zealand and carry out the fieldwork for this study.

Data collection will run from October 2004 to the end of March 2005 with children from schools throughout the Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago/Southland regions taking part.


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