Sun Safety booth Katie Baker

Let me begin by introducing myself – I’m Katie Baker, a second year doctoral student in Community Health attending East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health.  I was recently selected as a recipient of the 2011 ASPIRE Appalachia Scholarship and, as such, will be completing my summer field experience with the Tennessee Cancer Coalition, a state-wide organization focused on reducing cancer incidence, mortality, and morbidity and improving the quality of life for those affected by cancer in Tennessee.  This experience could not have been better suited for me, as I have received intensive training in skin cancer prevention throughout my time at ETSU. 


After meeting with my preceptor and local supervisors, I have developed several objectives for my summer field experience.  My objectives are as follows: 

  • Assist in planning sun safety awareness and outreach activities for local events, including the Blue Plum Festival in Johnson City, Tennessee (June 3 & 4)and FunFest in Kingsport, Tennessee (July 15-23).
  • Develop an evidence-based skin cancer prevention toolkit designed specifically for high-school aged adolescents by performing rigorous literature searches informed by evidence-based principles, consulting with experts in the field, and facilitating discussions among local public health professionals with experience in this topic and target population.  The toolkit will serve as a packaged program ideal for dissemination to each of the eight county Health Councils in the Appalachian Northeast Tennessee region.   Health educators and interested volunteers throughout the state will also have access to the toolkit, with the goal of educating every high school student in the state of Tennessee on the dangers of skin cancer and effective ways to prevent the disease. 

Sun Safety at the Blue Plum Festival, Johnson City, TN

June 3 – 4, 2011 

The Blue Plum Festival, spanning two full days of 90+ degree heat and cloudless skies, provided me with the perfect opportunity for sun safety outreach in my community.  For this event, the Tennessee Cancer Coalition, along with the American Cancer Society, provided no-cost educational materials and sun protection aids (i.e., SPF 15 sunscreen; visors; bracelets made from UV beads) to be distributed by members of the Washington County (TN) Health Council from a booth in Majestic Park in downtown Johnson City.  Strategically situated between the food venders on Market Street and the arts and crafts vendors on Main Street, our booth was a popular stop for festival goers, especially children.  Many approached the booth, at least initially, because they wanted a bracelet made with UV beads – small beads that change color once they have been exposed to sunlight.  However, once they received our message that the beads changing color indicates that they should apply sunscreen, many of them took the opportunity to apply the sunscreen we provided, and quite a few walked away wearing a Tennessee Cancer Coalition visor as well.  Overall, this experience was a wonderful glimpse into the “real world” of health promotion.  I was able to meet and interact with the Director of the Washington County Health Council, public health professionals working for the Washington County Health Department, and community members impacted by skin cancer – all of whom served as a reminder that I truly love the field of public health and that skin cancer prevention is becoming an increasingly important area of research and public outreach. Thank you to “Love Everybody” for making this experience possible through your scholarship support.