Sunscreen Use Improved With Quick Intervention


It is no secret that sun protection is important, as unprotected sun exposure and sunburns are known to raise skin cancer risk, but promoting the use of appropriate protective habits- such as sunscreen use, seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing- is sometimes a difficult task.

new study published in JAMA Dermatology found that a brief dermatologist-delivered intervention was associated with improved sun protection behaviors among patients receiving dermatology care.

The intervention- which is conversation based- lasts only 3 minutes. Its main appeal, though, among dermatologists in the study was that it required no additional time spent per appointment, said lead author Kimberly Mallett, PhD, who is a research professor and the clinical director of the Prevention Research to Optimize (PRO) Health Lab at the Pennsylvania State University.

Because physicians’ and other providers’ schedules are often crammed with a multitude of patient visits, most providers do not have additional time to spare. This was dermatologists’ number one concern in the study, Dr Mallett explained. The intervention is designed to accommodate this concern.

The Addressing Behavior Change Intervention

The intervention- called an Addressing Behavior Change (ABC) intervention- was developed by Dr Mallett and her research team, and stemmed from Dr Mallett’s experience as a clinical psychologist.

“I had received a lot of training in the area of behavior change, whereas other healthcare providers were not trained to facilitate conversations in the same way I was,” she explained.
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Originating in the area of substance abuse treatment, the intervention is interactive and involves having patients generate their own solutions for sun protection that they feel they can stick to. When coupled with additional suggestions from dermatologists, Dr Mallett found that the model was conducive to behavior change.

With consideration for providers’ busy schedules in mind, she figured out a way to make interventions brief, converting what would normally be a 15-minute-long intervention into a 3-minute one. Even though the interventions were shorter, they were still effective.

Perhaps most importantly, the conversation-based intervention can be given during a routine skin examination and requires no additional time spent per appointment, making it a convenient option for busy dermatologists.

“Once I learned how to make these interventions very brief, I realized that other healthcare providers like dermatologists would benefit from being able to talk to their patients in this way and could hopefully facilitate behavior change,” Dr Mallett said.

The intervention also comes with a small visual aid. Patients are given a magnet to take home with them, which contains cues that help reinforce the sun protection behaviors that dermatologists discuss with them during an appointment.

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