A few months ago, the Danish Association against Cancer launched a campaign aimed at the most popular holiday destinations for tourists from that country, including Spain, asking them to collaborate in preventing skin cancer statistics in Denmark from rising any higher.
The campaign, called Help a Dane (www.helpadane.com/spain) went viral and the Costa del Sol, where the health authorities have spent eight years working on a sun protection project, has responded by focusing its strategy this summer on Scandinavian tourists. As well as the Junta de Andalucía, the Danish consulate in Malaga and the town halls of Marbella, Manilva, Ojén, Torremolinos, Benahavís, Casares, Estepona, Istán, Benalmádena, Fuengirola and Mijas will also be taking part.
The campaign is directed at Scandinavian residents as well as tourists, and it aims to encourage them to protect themselves against the sun, reduce the incidence of sunburn and ensure that cases of skin cancer are diagnosed early.
According to the official figures, Denmark has a rate of 19.2 cases of melanoma for every 100,000 inhabitants. It is followed by Norway (with 18.8), Sweden (18) and Finland (12.6). In Spain overall the rate is 6.9, although on the Costa del Sol it is higher, at 17.
The campaign will be carried out in places where it is easiest to reach the public and ensure that the message is direct and is taken on board. These include 14 health centres as well as the Costa del Sol hospital, the CARE in Mijas and the HAR in Benalmádena. The campaign will also be promoted in the Swedish schools in Fuengirola and Marbella, the Danish and Norwegian schools in Benalmádena and the Finnish school in Fuengirola. In addition, it will also focus on tourist offices, car hire offices, the media, Scandinavian airlines and tourism companies which work with clients from those countries and wish to take part.
What is the best way of getting the message about the risks of sunbathing across to tourists who are coming here precisely to spend a few days enjoying the climate?
That was one of the questions raised during the recent presentation of this campaign at the Andalucía Lab, which was led by the manager of the Costa del Sol hospital, Torcuato Romero, and Marbella’s councillor for health, Ana Leschiera. Representatives of the public administrations and private entities associated with the foreign population who reside or spend the summers on the Costa del Sol were also present, and they asked several questions which the campaign will bear in mind.
“In two or three days they want to get as much sun as possible,” explained Juan Valentín, the representative of the Playa Senator hotel chain, which is the first to become involved in the hospital’s sun protection campaign. “It can be quite difficult to tell people about the risks of sunbathing, when that is exactly what they plan to do during their short stay.”
Manilva’s councillor for foreigners, Dean Tyler Shelton, said the message given by the hotels should be less direct and more subtle.
“Why don’t you place an information sticker in the bathroom, beside the one asking people not to waste water? It would be quite subliminal, but the message needs to be got across because obviously anyone who is diagnosed with skin cancer isn’t going to want to come back,” he said.
A question of balance
Those responsible for the campaign stress that the strategy upon which they are working includes the need to balance the warning message with the interests of the tourism sector, as well as the scientific evidence of the benefits of the sun for body and mind, as Magdalena de Troya, the campaign director, explained.
“We need the sun and there is no need to give a negative message about it. We have to provide advice from a positive point of view,” she said.
“It is important to remember that Danish people spend six months of the year in the dark. They come here for a bit of sunshine which their brain also needs,” explained the Danish consul in Malaga, Marisa Moreno.
With these points in mind, tourism companies are now starting to see the problem and come up with ideas of raising awareness of the risks but without damaging their business. Manuel Martínez, who runs a luxury charter company, for example, explained that he is having discussions with a sun cream company about giving samples to his clients.
“Danish people are not aware of the risks from the sun. I see them spending hours and hours on the beach. They are desperate for sunshine. It’s a good idea to remind them that sunbathing is OK, but that they need to be careful. This campaign is necessary,” said Annete Skou, who is Danish and the coordinator of the foreigners department in Mijas.
Jesper Pedersen, the president of the Costa Press Club, said the media has a role to play in giving positive messages.
“We’re not here to frighten anybody, because this is a preventive campaign,” he argued, something with which the campaign coordinator, Nuria Delgado, strongly agreed.
“We have to turn this campaign by the health authorities into something which becomes fashionable and well-accepted by the public,” she said.