Harrogate, Tennessee, April 24, 2019 – State park workers spend much of their time outdoors, increasing their exposure to sunlight, and a new study published online on March 27, 2019, in the “Annals of Work Exposures and Health” indicates that despite the increased risk of skin cancer, state park workers are not doing enough to protect themselves from the sun or screen for skin cancer. Dr. Vinayak K. Nahar, a Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) assistant professor and researcher, served as the primary author on this study, which included a sampling of 310 state park workers from 23 state parks in the Southeastern United States.
The study used the health belief model (HBM) to assess factors associated with sun protection behaviors among state park workers. The HBM describes the decision-making process behind health behaviors that are the result of an individual’s perceived risk, benefits and barriers to treatment.
“If the benefits of sun protection outweigh the barriers, an individual is more likely to engage in adequate sun protection behavior,” said Nahar. “Simple actions such as providing sunscreen to workers, training employees on proper UV protection and providing them with information on preventative screenings could help in reducing their risk of skin cancer.”
Alarmingly, 52.3% of the state park workers in the study reported never or rarely using sunscreen. Only 11.9% of the participants reported that their current workplace had a written sun-safety policy, with only 8.7% reporting the policy was enforced. Creating an intervention strategy in the workplace such as providing on-site sunscreen dispensers may encourage workers to regularly apply sunscreen.
State park workers have a variety of responsibilities ranging from maintenance and repair of park infrastructure to landscaping and patrolling the park, many of which must be done outdoors. While this study focuses on state park workers, its findings can be beneficial for other industries that employ outdoor workers.
“This study should encourage the development and implementation of skin cancer prevention programs for state park workers and other outdoor workers that experience increased sun exposure,” said Nahar. “Further research should be done to explore sun protection policies for this population and strategies to encourage employees to adopt preventative measures to sun exposure.”
Nahar serves several roles at LMU including assistant professor of Public Health and One Health at LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine, a researcher for the LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Center of Animal and Human Health in Appalachia. Nahar also serves as a researcher for the Department of Dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. His research focuses on using health behavior theoretical models to conceptualize preventive behaviors.
Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423.869.6280 or email at [email protected]