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Sept. 17, 2004

ULM Backpack Awareness Day

Nationwide, more than 7,000 children end up in emergency rooms each year suffering injuries from backpacks and book bags. Experts estimate that over half of the 40 million plus school children in the United States carry too much weight in their backpacks. In addition to improperly worn backpacks, these heavy loads can cause children to experience neck, shoulder and back pain. These injuries can have adverse effects on posture and the developing spines of children. In addition, hauling heavy backpacks can compromise breathing and cause fatigue.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe Occupational Therapy faculty and senior occupational therapy students are partnering with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to conduct a backpack awareness day on September 22nd to educate children, parents, school administrators, teachers, and communities about the serious health effects on children from backpacks that are too heavy or worn improperly. This local event is part of National School Backpack Awareness Day, being held in schools and community centers across the country.

The Backpack Awareness Day "weigh-in" will be held on September 22 at the Morehouse Magnet School in Bastrop, Louisiana from 8:25 a.m. to 9:55 a.m. fifth and Sixth grade students will be weighed with their backpacks to illustrate the amount of weight that school children are carrying on their backs to and from school each day. Penny Jones, LOTR and Donna Eichhorn, LOTR, and occupational therapy students from ULM will weigh the students. Mrs. Kacey Jones, a sixth grade teacher at Morehouse Magnet School, helped coordinate the event.

"The weigh-in will be followed by a "fun" educational/wellness promotion program focusing on backpack safety," said Penny Jones. "The goal of the program is to teach the students how to be a "backpack cop" (Choose a well-designed backpack, Organize the contents appropriately, and Pack it light, wear it right)," She continued.

AOTA recommends that school backpacks weigh no more than 15% of a child's weight. The growing awareness of potential long-term problems to children has resulted in increased medical research, and more coverage of the issue in mainstream publications as well as medical journals. There is proposed legislation in California and New Jersey to address the issue of backpack weight and student health.

For more information on Backpack Awareness Day "weigh-in" or backpack safety call Penny Jones, LOTR, at 342-1638

Other local community sponsors that are helping to make this event possible include Bastrop printing; International Paper Company; Wal-Mart; John Sibley, Century 21-Bastrop Realty; The Conley Agency; Christmas Enterprises; Mer Rouge State Bank; Tubbs Wrecker Service; Charles McDonald, State Representative; Kris McKoin, Edward Jones Investments; Johnny's Pizza; Pizza Hut; and Sonic.

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