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Pool Cool makes fun in the sun safe

Implemented by the Masonic Cancer Alliance, The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s outreach network, the Pool Cool program has trained over 13,300 aquatic staff at over 85 sites in safe sun protection.

Four people stand beside a pool, smiling, wearing sunglasses, one is holding a large jug labeled Pool Cool
Pool Cool brings sun protection smarts (and gallons of sunscreen) to communities across Kansas.

In Kansas, cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, increased significantly from 2008 to 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Protection from the sun's rays could prevent about 90% of all skin cancer cases. Since youth are especially at risk for overexposure to the sun with extended times outdoors, The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s outreach network, the Masonic Cancer Alliance (MCA), implemented Pool Cool, a program to educate young people in the cancer center’s catchment area on sun safety behaviors.  

The MCA rolled out Pool Cool ten years ago across the state at outdoor aquatic centers (e.g., public pools, private pools, country clubs). During this time, the MCA has trained over 13,300 aquatic staff from more than 85 different sites. The CDC recognized the Pool Cool program as a “best practice” for cancer prevention. The program has also been recognized by the Kansas Recreation and Park Association as an Outstanding Aquatics Special Event Award winner.

Pool Cool targets swimming instructors (teenagers and young adults), pool patrons of all ages and children taking swimming lessons. The MCA uses a train-the-trainer model to reach its goal of increasing sun protection behaviors statewide. Ashley Adorante, MCA outreach coordinator, serves as the program champion and is responsible for hiring and training the student interns who serve as Pool Cool trainers. Each summer, Ashley and her team hit the road (with gallons of sunscreen in hand) to promote sun safety practices.

“I love visiting different communities across Kansas,” said Adorante. “Every town has its own ‘claim to fame,’ and the residents are proud to show it off.”

Three women stand beside a community pool, one holding a sign that says Caution SPF 15 Zone ahead, one holding a jug of sunscreen, and one holding a Pool Cool sign
Pool Cool sites are provided with sunscreen and protective gear
(e.g., sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm), sunscreen reminder signs
and a booklet with program information.

The MCA provides the pool sites with gallon tubs of sunscreen and protective gear (e.g., sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm), sunscreen reminder signs and a Pool Cool booklet with information on implementing the program. The interns teach swimming instructors and aquatics staff the importance of decreasing sunburns and ways to increase sun protection behaviors such as sunscreen use.

The swimming instructors learn how to include Pool Cool’s sun safety education in each swim lesson. Jennifer Wegener, aquatics supervisor for the Emporia (KS) Recreation Commission, has partnered with Pool Cool for several years.

“Every year, I hear team members talk about some element of Pool Cool’s presentation that hit home for them personally. One year, a team member decided to go to a dermatologist on a regular basis. Another time, several members were looking at a suspicious spot on a coworker, using the ‘ABCDEs’ of skin cancer,” said Wegener. “I would say that thousands of people have received life-saving skin cancer information from the presentations shared with my team.”

To learn how you can bring Pool Cool to your community, visit the Masonic Cancer Alliance’s website.

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