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Nonprofit supports skin cancer prevention


Make Big Change is a grassroots nonprofit that focuses on putting dispensers with free sunscreen around public outdoor areas nationwide. The dispensers come with infographics that communicate sun exposure dangers and prevention benefits.

Physician assistant Michelle Roy, of Dermatology and Skin Health, in Dover, N.H., says she was looking at skin cancer statistics in her state in 2014, when she saw the statistic that would motivate her to make change.

“Forty people a year die from melanoma in New Hampshire,” Ms. Roy says.

Oddly, New England has some of the highest skin cancer rates in the United States. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2012, New Hampshire ranks in the top 10 U.S. states for melanoma incidence, with 24.8 cases per 100,000 population.

“I sat back and thought this is something we need to change,” Roy says.

READ: ASDS responds to Surgeon General's skin cancer call to action

Roy and late dermatologist James L. Campbell, M.D., launched the N.H.-based nonprofit Make Big Change later that year. The aim, according to Ms. Roy, is skin cancer (primarily melanoma) prevention. Make Big Change helps municipalities, schools and more get access to sunscreen dispensers that are put up in public places for use by anyone, for free, who wants to protect their skin from the sun. The dispensers come with infographics that communicate the dangers of sun exposure and benefits of prevention.

What started as a local grassroots organization at the dermatology practice has gone national.

NEXT: Making Big Change


Making Big Change

“In 2015, in our first year, we placed about 150 units across the U.S. and we hope to triple that this year,” Ms. Roy says. “We’ve placed units throughout the U.S. in Florida, Texas and we had a big roll out with the city of Boston. The Department of Recreation [ordered] 50 units [placed] throughout the Metro-Boston area. And those were wildly popular and successful.”

Last year, Make Big Change was part of anti-tanning bed legislation in the state and educated close to 1,000 school-aged kids throughout New England about skin cancer prevention, according to Roy.

“In 2016, we’re looking to work with larger cities and larger organizations. Right now, we’re working with Tampa [and will be placing units throughout the Florida city],” she says.

Make Big Change has also trademarked and launched a social media campaign using the slogan, “SPF is your BFF.”

Make Big Change works with Bright Guard, a company that manufactures the dispensers, which Roy says are heavy duty, to withstand the elements, and dispense 1.5ml of sunscreen. The company describes the dispensers has having 1,000ml sunscreen capacity and being water-resistant and theft resistant.

Roy says the nonprofit has raised money through private and corporate donations, as well as with an annual fundraiser called Martinis for Melanoma. When needed, Make Big Change will provide the dispensers and sunscreen for free. Organizations and local government organizations can also purchase the dispensers and sunscreen on the Make Big Change website, MakeBigChange.org.

NEXT: How you can get involved



Get involved

Roy encourages dermatology practices to get involved by coordinating with Make Big Change to have the dispensers put in public places in their communities. As an added benefit, dermatology practices can have their practice names and contact information put on the dispensers. According to the nonprofit’s website, the cost for a dispenser, pole mount and four big bags of SPF 30 sunscreen, which is free of dyes, fragrance and parabens is $350. Make Big Change will provide the dispensers for organizations and municipalities that cannot afford them.

Dermatologist Gary Mendese, M.D., who is the medical director for Make Big Change, says getting involved in Make Big Change is a win-win for providers and the nonprofit.

“The whole concept of Make Big Change would help providers who want to get more involved in the community. As providers …, you go to work, you see patients and you hope to have an impact on one person at a time. This project allows you to impact the community as a whole,” says Dr. Mendese, a Mohs surgeon.

For busy dermatologists, a lot of the work has been done. Dermatology practices need only get in touch with Make Big Change, custom order their dispensers to include their practice name or skin cancer facts, and make sure the dispensers in communities are filled with sunscreen.

For more information about Make Big Change, call Executive Director Laurie Seavey at 603-674-8156 or go to MakeBigChange.org

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