In some local parks this summer, you might find a new amenity: public sunscreen.
The Melanoma Foundation of New England has outfitted 12 recreation departments and schools in New Hampshire with hands-free dispensers and 4 liters of organic, all-natural sunscreen to place at beaches, parks, pools and ball fields.
Among the local recipients were the towns of Pembroke and Bow and Pembroke Academy, which received kits in the mail in the past week.
The executive director of the local Melanoma Foundation, Deb Girard, said skin cancer presents a public health risk that is effectively countered through the availability of sunscreen.
She said she hopes free sunscreen dispensers become commonplace everywhere people are taking in sun for the benefit of those who forgot to apply, can’t afford to buy a bottle or need to reapply because they’re staying out longer than they expected.
“We’re really beginning to see studies that show that the use of sunscreen can cut the risk of melanoma up to 80 percent,” she said. “An ounce of prevention really does make a huge difference.”
The campaign, dubbed Practice Safe Skin, began last summer with a pilot program of 30 dispensers in Boston. Girard said the yellow devices were well enough received that her organization sought to expand the program around the country.
In all, 192 dispensers were distributed this month to 12 states, she said, with most landing in Massachusetts.
Girard said she’s hoping that communities everywhere will see the value and decide to install their own.
“We need to have parks and recreation programs see that this is a really great thing for them to offer,” she said.
The parks department in Bow has already inquired about buying a third dispenser, after just having installed its two free ones last week, director Cindy Rose said.
The two are installed at Hanson Park and the third is planned for Sargent’s Park, she said.
“I just know how important it is,” Rose said. “I’ve sat at games and shared sunscreen with other people and forgotten mine and had to borrow from other people.”
The program supervisor for Pembroke’s parks department, Rose Galligan, said the dispensers will come in handy for the town’s eight-week summer recreation program at Memorial Field.
There will be 40 to 50 kids running around and although there's already a mandatory sunscreen policy, it never hurts to have more available, she said.
“This would just be perfect, you know?” she said.
Each town received a case of sunscreen worth $200 along with its one or two dispensers, Girard said. Those 4 liters will be good for an estimated 2,700 applications of sunscreen, which she said she expects to cover most of a summer.
After the 4 liters are gone, the receiving towns will have to buy their own replacement sunscreen.
The Melanoma Foundation plans to follow up with surveys to learn more about why people are and aren’t using the dispensers and how many pumps of lotion each person uses, she said.
And for anyone who’s concerned about the hygiene of people going back for more sunscreen after having just lathered themselves up, that’s why the designers made sure to include a hands-free sensor to activate the dispenser.
“We worked out all the gross-out features before we launched,” Girard laughed.
To promote skin safety in their communities, businesses can sponsor a dispenser with their logo on it. For more information, visit mfne.org/practice-safe-skin.
(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, email@example.com or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)