Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
ROSWELL – The community of Roswell has joined forces with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to weigh in on the issue of school backpacks and health.
On Sept. 25, ENMU-Roswell is holding a school backpack "weigh-in" to encourage students to "Lighten Up." This local effort is part of National School Backpack Awareness Day events held around the country to educate children, parents, teachers, and communities about the serious health effects on children from backpacks that are too heavy or worn improperly. Occupational therapy practitioners advise a backpack strategy of "Pack it Light, Wear it Right."
"Every year we're seeing more children with stooped shoulders, sore necks, and aching backs from carrying school backpacks, and we can't afford to put our children at risk for a lifetime of problems," said AOTA Executive Director Joseph C. Isaacs, CAE. Patsy Herrera, OTR/L, Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at ENMU-R, added, "The Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at ENMU-Roswell is committed to bringing awareness of this public health issue to Southeastern New Mexico students and their families."
More than 40 million children in the United States carry school backpacks, and more than half of them may be carrying too much weight. Children carrying overloaded backpacks and improperly worn packs, according to U.S. and international studies, are likely to experience neck, shoulder, and back pain; adverse effects on posture and the developing spine; and compromised breathing and fatigue. The U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission estimates that more than 7,000 emergency room visits in 2001 resulted from injuries related to backpacks and book bags. Half of those occurred among children between the ages of five and 14, the ages of elementary and middle-school students. The growing awareness of potential long-term problems to children has resulted in increased medical research and proposed legislation in at least two states to address the issue of backpack weight in relation to student health.
AOTA is urging ENMU-Roswell to work with parents, students and occupational therapy practitioners to reduce the risks from improper use of school backpacks. Strategies for loading and wearing backpacks properly include:
· Backpacks should weigh no more than 15 percent of body weight (15-pound pack on a 100-pound child).
· Load heaviest items closest to the child's back.
· Wear both shoulder straps for an evenly balanced load.
· Adjust shoulder and waist straps to distribute the burden more evenly along the child's back.
· Suggest that teachers consider the total weight of each day's assigned class work - not only in content, but also in terms of textbook weight.
"Our Southeastern New Mexico communities are concerned about childrens' well-being," said Mrs. Herrera. "Because occupational therapy practitioners work with children in every school district in the nation, we wanted to partner with them to empower our children to lighten their load and share the backpack burden with their parents and teachers."
Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are trained in helping children with a broad range of issues in addition to ergonomics, such as good handwriting skills and developmental and behavioral problems. The American Occupational Therapy Association, founded in 1917, is the membership organization of more than 40,000 health care professionals. For more information on occupational therapy, visit www.aota.org.
For further information, contact Mrs. Pat Herrera at 505.624.7267.
A poor student not only has to keep up with her schoolwork, but has to trudge to an upstairs classroom with a backpack that a camel would have trouble carrying through the arid climes of the High Plains. (photo by Richard Salas)