Ministry Sacred Heart - Saint Mary's Hospitals

Financial Review

Ministry Rehabilitation Services and Rhinelander Community Schools Work Together to Lighten the Burden of School Backpacks

The Rhinelander community annually joins forces with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to weigh in on the issue of school backpacks and child health.

Each year in September, Ministry Rehabilitation Services hosts a school backpack "weigh-in" at James Williams Middle School, Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School and Zion Evangelical Lutheran School to encourage students to "Lighten Up." This effort is part of National School Backpack Awareness Day held nationwide to educate children, parents, teachers, and communities about the serious health problems children may have 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," says AOTA Executive Director Frederick P. Somers. "AOTA is committed to moving this public health issue forward today. Our children's future well-being is in jeopardy."

Ministry Rehabilitation Occupational Therapist Gina Scheuer agrees. “Locally, we are seeing more children with back pain and shoulder pain due to heavy back packs or improper use of them than we have in the past,” she said.

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.

"Our school was concerned about our students’ well-being," says Paul Johnson, principal of James Williams Middle School. "We greatly appreciate our partnership with Ministry Rehab Services. Annually, through their coaching we have empowered our students to lighten their load and share the backpack burden with their parents and teachers."

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