In the traditional Healthy Athletes model, athletes must come to a Health Promotion screening venue to receive information on sun safety, but a new model, tested during the 2010 USA National Games, took the information directly to the athletes.
Health Promotion Manager Heather Parker snaps a free bracelet on an athlete from Nebraska. The bracelet turns purple in sunlight, reminding athletes to use sunscreen.
For two days, at the Abbott Sports Complex in Lincoln, Nebraska, Health Promotion clinical directors educated athletes and provided free sunscreen, chapstick and photochromic bracelets between practices and competitions. This new model was highly successful, reaching athletes, coaches, and family members who may not otherwise have been exposed to Healthy Athletes.
“It’s great to incorporate what we do in Health Promotion into their event,” said Stephanie Young, a strength and conditioning coach from Indiana and a newly trained Health Promotion clinical director. “I have seen some shocked faces. With sun safety, you can really open their eyes to what can happen.” While Special Olympics athletes generally know the benefits of sunscreen, they often forget to re-apply it regularly and are unaware of other steps that can be taken to protect themselves, like wearing a hat, Young explained.
Caroline Prevost, a nurse from Florida agrees. “Athletes often don’t realize that sun safety is important in the wintertime too,” she said. Prevost was also trained as a clinical director during the National Games and enjoyed interacting with athletes. “They are thoughtful and appreciative of the work we are doing.”
Healthy Athletes hopes to expand its Sun Safety on the Field initiative and offer it at additional events, as well as encourage all Healthy Athletes disciplines to explore different ways to serve athletes in innovative ways. Embracing this philosophy, many Healthy Athletes programs are offering healthier food alternatives at Special Olympics events. Read more about these initiatives.
"We really need to change the environment in which the athletes compete and live," said Heather Parker, Special Olympics' manager for Health Promotion.