Preventing skin cancer: after 24 years, Pool Cool still reaches swimmers across the country

The Pool Cool program was designed to teach sun safety to children during swim lessons and to help swimming pools to become more sun-safe environments. The goals are to help children form good sun protection habits at a young age, and to make it easier for children and aquatics staff to reduce their UV exposure and sunburn. The Pool Cool program consists of:

  • 8 simple lessons (5 minutes long) taught at the beginning of regular swimming lessons
  • Resources for enhancing the pool environment, including on-site sunscreen dispensers, shade covers, and signage  
  • Guidance on creating sun protection policies in swimming pool settings
  • Ideas for sun-safe Poolside Activities if time permits

Pool Cool was developed in 1998 by Dr. Karen Glanz and colleagues at the University of Hawaii and Boston University. Glanz, now at the University of Pennsylvania, led the program from a pilot study to a randomized trial in Hawaii and Massachusetts and then to a large dissemination trial in over 400 locations. Pool Cool was funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control, National Cancer Institute, and Georgia Cancer Coalition and is listed as a “Research-Tested Intervention Program” (RTIP) by the National Cancer Institute. The Pool Cool program was conducted in hundreds of centers and pools across the United States when the research was under way. Most recently, we learned about The University of Kansas Cancer Center sponsoring the Pool Cool skin cancer prevention program at many pools in Kansas. Pool managers in Kansas found success reaching swimmers by using the messaging and materials from the program. They have found that the train-the-trainer model is also important to the process as those who teach are better at recalling what they’ve learned. In effect, the Pool Cool message resonates across generations and gets stronger every year.

Here is a map of the swimming pool sites in Kansas that used Pool Cool from 2014 to 2022. It was created by Ashley Adorante, who has led the implementation of Pool Cool at the University of Kansas Cancer Center. In 2021 St. Luke’s MSTI in Idaho adopted the evidence-based Pool Cool program to extend sun-safety education beyond the classroom.

The sun-safety messages are seamlessly integrated into the swimming lessons, with the curriculum combining education, interactive activities at the pool, and pool-wide environmental changes, such as signage and sunscreen dispensers. The materials they adapted from Pool Cool were added to a searchable resource database, created to provide cancer prevention tools to program planners and public health practitioners across Idaho.

Photos and content provided by Hope Krebill/The University of Kansas Cancer Center

 

Learn more about the Pool Cool program on our website.

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