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May 6, 2020

Public Health in the Selfie Generation

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Allied Health Sciences, Institute for Collaborations on Health, Interventions, and Policy, University of Connecticut, Storrs
  • 2Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Dermatol. 2020;156(7):731-732. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2020.0510

Healthy habits established in adolescence have the potential to produce lifelong dividends. Intervening with adolescents can be challenging because they are in developmental transition, their behavior is uniquely affected by their social environment,1 and their communication technologies and habits differ from those of adults. Skin cancer prevention in adolescents has been a particularly perplexing challenge because high-risk behavior (eg, tanning) is often socially rewarded. Most national surveys reveal that fewer than half of school-aged children regularly use sun protection when outdoors.2 Traditional school-based educational programs have resulted in improved awareness of sun protection and positive attitudes toward its use but rarely translate into behavior change.3 Although it is important to cast school-based programs within larger community settings such as pools, camps, and beaches, adolescents spend far more time in classrooms, which provide the potential for greater effect, but only if we can truly engage and motivate them.

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