Chaffee County Public Health has been putting grant money to use this summer with programs reaching out to youths about the harmful rays of the sun.

The $15,000 grant came from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in May for the county health department’s “sun safety” work.

The state health department data for Chaffee County identified skin cancer as the third most common form of cancer for county residents, said Emily Anderson, a registered nurse at Chaffee County Public Health.

That data supports the finding that skin cancer is the fastest rising type of cancer in young people, ages 15 to 29, she said.

The county health department’s summer programs worked through the Boys & Girls Club and with local baseball teams.

For the Boys & Girls Club, Julie Nutter, director of the oral health program, gave skin care presentations to club members in Salida and Buena Vista.

After seeing several informational posters about how to keep their skin safe in the sun, the kids embarked on a poster-making contest, with six winners from Salida and Buena Vista.

Sheree Beddingfield, owner of Salida Dermatology, helped judge the competitions and will display at her clinic a picture of two of the winners holding their posters, said Nutter.

In Nutter’s talks with the Boys & Girls Club kids, she included information about the UV index, which is now commonly featured on weather applications on smartphones. UV rays are the damaging rays, she said, especially at this elevation.

Nutter said they also talked a lot about tanning beds, which she said are the leading cause of melanoma in young people.

A survey of Salida High School students found that about 50 percent of girls have used tanning beds. Nutter said she wanted to get the idea across that tanned skin is damaged skin.

Sandy Morgan, the health department’s immunization coordinator, has also been getting the Salida and Buena Vista youth baseball teams involved. The kids who sign a pledge to practice sun safety get ice cream certificates to Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop in Salida and Spoon It Up in Buena Vista.

The Public Health Department still has plenty of certificates for ice cream available at its office because many of the games have been rained out, said Morgan.

Chaffee County Public Health programs will continue until the end of September. With the back-to-school season around the corner, the department plans to tag along to events like the sports physical nights and kindergarten registrations in Salida and Buena Vista.

Morgan said they’ll also work with school nurses to set up skin care presentations and try to get into the health classes of all ages.

Anderson said they’ve got tons of sunscreen samples to give out to physicians to get them into the hands of parents. They’ve also given all the Boys & Girls Club kids free sunscreen and lip balm samples.

Along with keeping an eye on the UV index for the day – and its fluctuation throughout the day – Anderson recommended seeking the shelter of shaded areas, wearing sunglasses to protect from eye damage and making sunscreen a part of everyone’s everyday morning routine.

Be aware that if you’re outside moving around a lot, you’re likely wearing off a good amount of your sunscreen, so reapplying every 2 hours is best, said Anderson. Also reapply sunscreen after swimming, toweling off or if you’ve been sweating a lot. People with darker skin need to wear sunscreen as well, said Nutter.

Nutter added that she’d like to see organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club keep an eye on the UV index – perhaps deciding not to send kids outside to play when the index is at its highest point in the day.

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