Aims: To assess the public reach, awareness, understanding and response to the burn time and the Ultra Violet Index (UVI) in media weather reports in New Zealand.
Methods: Data from a representative sample (n = 396), ages 16-44 years, were gathered over four consecutive summer weeks of 1999 via a random digit dialling telephone survey. Items collected included sources of weather reports and their frequency of use; knowledge, understanding, perception and use of the burn time and the UVI; sun-related beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
Results: Exposure to weekend weather bulletins was sustained, and occurred mainly via television (83%) and radio (50%). There was greater awareness of the burn time than the more recent UVI (89% vs 43%). The UVI was less often used to guide sun protection actions (49% vs 63%) but better understood (94% vs 66%) and more often recalled along with sun protective messages (56% vs 32%) than the burn time. Few could describe the burn time or the UVI for the past Sunday. Self-perceived understanding of the burn time was higher than its measured, sub-optimal, comprehension (96% vs 65%).
Conclusions: Further efforts are needed to promote the UVI, particularly on TV1 and on radio, and to reach younger adults and less educated groups. For a transition period, presentation of the burn time should be restricted to complementing the UVI. Thereafter, the UVI should become the standard indicator of UV level in New Zealand.