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Sun safety project at Primate Dixon Primary School in Coalisland


Public Health Agency

Type: News
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

This spring the 'Living Willows for Shade' sun safety project is getting underway at Primate Dixon Primary School in Coalisland. The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Cancer Focus initiative provides areas of shaded play for school children created from living willow trees.Despite our unpredictable climate, skin cancer rates in Northern Ireland continue to rise and sun safety is an important health message for us all, especially children. A high proportion of our total lifetime sun exposure is during childhood and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can cause skin damage, even on cloudy or windy days.Good sun protection behaviours acquired at a young age are more likely to be sustained and contribute to a healthy lifestyle during childhood and into adult life.Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, said: "Being active and having fun outside is good for health, but the sun can cause permanent damage to children's delicate skin. One episode of sunburn, especially in childhood, doubles the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer."Dr Art O'Hagan, Consultant Dermatologist at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, said: "Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Northern Ireland, so it is vital that we start to teach children at a young age why and how to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sun."Marbeth Ferguson, Skin Cancer Prevention Co-ordinator at Cancer Focus, said: "The Living Willows project has been running for 10 years in Northern Ireland and over 109 schools have participated. The project provides areas of shaded play for the school children and raises awareness of sun protection issues within the school."The children learn how to keep their skin healthy in the sun by playing in the shade between 11am and 3pm, covering up with a t-shirt, sunglasses and hat, and applying high protection sunscreen to exposed skin."Seán Dillon, Principal at Primate Dixon Primary School, said: "Pupils were fascinated to see the creation of the willow tunnel. Both staff and pupils are looking forward to watching the new willow dome growing this spring, and to sun safety education sessions in the summer term. Thanks to the Living Willows project, the children will understand the importance of being smart in the sun. This is a really excellent project and initiative that builds on health and environmental awareness activities at Primate Dixon."To find out more information on the Living Willows for Shade project contact Cancer Focus Northern Ireland on 028 9066 3281 or visit you are concerned about any aspect of cancer call Cancer Focus's free information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339 or email one of the nurses on





Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Public Health Agency. (2014) Sun safety project at Primate Dixon Primary School in Coalisland [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 16th July 2019].


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