WASHINGTON: The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is hoping to lighten the load for students across the US as it debuts National School Backpack Awareness Day on September 25.
According to the AOTA, heavy or unevenly filled backpacks are a leading cause of neck, shoulder, and back pain among American children, resulting in 7,000 emergency room visits last year alone. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, they say. School desks, chairs, and computers are rarely ergonomically sound.
So this year, occupational therapists across the country will be holding "weigh-ins" at schools across the country. Students will have their packs and themselves weighed to ensure that the pack weighs no more than 15% of the carrier's body weight, the maximum recommended ratio.
"It's been brought to the attention of occupational therapists that this problem is on the rise," said AOTA president Karen Jacobs. "We're concerned about keeping kids healthy; National Backpack Awareness day came out of that concern to bring it up to a national level."
The AOTA's agency of record, DC-based Ignition Strategic Communications, is helping promote the initiative. USA Today announced the campaign in its September 11 issue.
Sixty-five schools in 40 states are expected to participate. In addition to the weigh-ins, local school occupational therapists will be sending children home with information on how to better conform their schools to ergonomic standards.
The AOTA is also receiving help from LL Bean. The gear and clothing company has begun attaching information to its backpacks regarding the proper way to fill and carry them. AOTA's website will link to LL Bean's from September 25, where consumers can find further information on the proper use of backpacks.
The AOTA represents more than 40,000 occupational therapists, students, and assistants across the country. Federal law deems that all school systems must have an occupational therapist available to aid children who require help; more than one-fourth of the AOTA's members work with children in schools or pediatric facilities.