Archived News | Return to News Center

Sept. 16, 2005

ULM Occupational Therapy Promotes Backpack Awareness

The ULM Occupational Therapy faculty, senior OT students, and OT assistant students are teaming up with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to conduct a "Backpack Awareness Day" September 21. Three area schools will host assemblies to educate children, parents, and school faculty about the potential health risks of heavy or improperly worn backpacks. This local event is part of the 4th Annual National School Backpack Awareness Day being held in schools and community centers across the country.

Locally, A.L. Smith Elementary School in Sterlington, Start Elementary School and Delhi Charter School will host assemblies. A.L. Smith Elementary will begin at 10:30 a.m., Start Elementary will begin at 10:45 a.m., and Delhi Charter School will begin at 9:50 a.m.

Instructors will show over 400 local fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade students proper backpack usage. 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.)

Other occupational therapy tips for health and success in school will be incorporated into the program such as organization tips, building friendships, proper positions when using a computer, and suggestions for improving handwriting.

The ULM OT students are currently seeking community sponsors and donations to help make this a successful campaign. Each child attending the program will be provided with information and "prizes" to take home as a reminder to develop safe backpack habits. Monetary donations will be used to purchase backpacks and other school supplies for children who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

OT Instructor, Penny Jones says that research shows more than 7,000 children end up in emergency rooms each year suffering injuries from backpacks and book bags. She also says experts estimate about half of the 40 million plus school children in the U.S. will be carrying too much weight in their backpacks.

Jones says "Children carrying overloaded backpacks and improperly worn packs have a good chance of experiencing neck, shoulder, and back pain."

AOTA recommends 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 about Backpack Awareness Day, contact Penny Jones, LOTR at 342-1638 or Donna Eichhorn, LOTR at 342-1613.

PLEASE NOTE: Some links and e-mail addresses in these archived news stories may no longer work, and some content may include events which are no longer relevent, or reference individuals and/or organizations no longer associated with ULM.