Shading Children from the Sun’s Harmful Rays

Photo of children playing under a shade structure funded by the American Academy of Dermatology

Children play under a shade structure funded by the American Academy of Dermatology.

The sun’s rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Staying in the shade is an easy way to protect your skin, but many outdoor recreation areas do not have enough shade to help visitors stay out of the sun.

Since 2003, the Shade Structure Program of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has given money to schools, child care centers, parks, and nonprofit organizations to build more than 350 permanent shade structures in places where children learn and play in 46 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.

Despite these efforts, the demand from eligible organizations has overwhelmed the organization’s resources. To help meet the demand, AAD member (and current president) Dr. Suzanne Olbricht had an idea in 2015 of how to expand the program. She initiated the idea and provided seed money for a shade structure to be installed over the Seal and Sea Lion exhibit at the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, DC. More than 2 million people visit this exhibit every year, and the high-profile exposure prompted other AAD members to help fund shade structures in their communities. This support allowed AAD to expand the number of awards from 19 in 2016 to 26 in 2017.

“With the steady increases in skin cancer diagnoses, it’s so important to educate the public about the importance of shade,” said Dr. Scott Dinehart. He, along with Dr. Ray Parker and the Arkansas Foundation for Skin Cancer, donated money to install shade structures at athletic fields in their community.

AAD also worked with the City of St. Petersburg, Florida, to make shade structures part of the remodeling of the St. Petersburg Pier, which will be completed by summer 2019. About 1.7 million visitors are expected to visit the new pier each year. The city will also include sun-safety messages in its Healthy St. Pete initiatives.

AAD will continue to look for outdoor spaces with large numbers of visitors as a way to reach—and protect—as many people as possible. To learn more about these efforts, visit icon