September 2, 2014

Doctor: Don’t crack your back with an overpacked backpack

With schools back in session across Nebraska there’s a warning about aches and pains from the misuse of backpacks. The weight really adds up considering text books, laptops, notebooks, cell phones and other items.

Pain specialist Dr. Douglas Keehn says the kids may not consider it a “cool” look, but they need to use both straps to better distribute the weight. Injuries are on the rise, according to a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“They estimate that there has been a 300% increase in the number of backpack injuries over the last 17 years,” Dr. Keehn says. “Last year alone, 14,000 people saught medical care for backpack-related injuries.” Five-thousand of those went to the ER because of their injuries.

Dr. Keehn says it’s important to make sure the backpack is not too big or too small for the child’s frame, and be cognizant of what’s in it. Those with cute patterns, non-traditional straps or other superficial features might not be the right fit, according to Keehn.

“Messenger bags are also very popular, they’re great fashion items,” he says, “but once again, they’re probably not great for doing things like carrying your textbooks simply because you can’t really distribute the weight that you would be typically carrying.”

For example, soft athletic bags with thin rope straps, which are fine for carrying a pair of shorts and a light t-shirt to the gym, are not appropriate for heavy text books and laptops.

Keehn says the weight of the fully-loaded backpack should not be more than 10 to 15% of the student’s total body weight.

“How do you find the right backpack and fit it appropriately and how do you load it appropriately,” he says. “By doing those things, it makes a lot of sense that we would probably be able to reduce the number of backpack-related injuries we have each year.”

He offers a few tips: adjust the straps, both of which should be wide and padded over the shoulders, pack properly to distribute the weight, use both straps, lift with the knees, and don’t pack what you don’t need.

Nebraska students score well on standardized tests


State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt speaks with reporters. Dir. of Statewide Assessment, Valorie Foy, is to his right

State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt speaks with reporters. Dir. of Statewide Assessment, Valorie Foy, is to his right

State education officials say nearly three in every four Nebraska public school students met state reading, math, and science standards.

The 2014 state test results disclose 77% of the Nebraska students met or exceeded state standards on the reading test; 72% in science and 71% in math.

State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt says education officials have seen progress over the years, but worry scores may have hit a plateau.

“When we do hit plateaus, I think it’s going to be incumbent on us to look at why we hit that level and what it is really going to take to make a difference,” Blomstedt tells reporters during a news conference at the state education offices in Lincoln.

Blomstedt says school must find ways to engage students. He also says early childhood education can have an impact throughout the educational career of a student.

Only writing scores from 4th Graders have been released, with 69% of the students meeting or exceeding state standards. A technical glitch in the online writing test administered to the higher grades prevented the state from releases more test results.

Blomstedt says educators must guard against being satisfied.

“I look at the numbers and go, ‘What can we do to make a difference in our reading scores if we are plateauing?’” Blomstedt says.

Blomstedt says educators must find ways to engage students and the state must invest in the things that really matter in teaching students.

A breakdown of the test results by district and school building is available by clicking here.

$11.3M grant will aid UNL research into the causes of obesity

Harvey Perlman talks to reporters during the news conference

Harvey Perlman talks to reporters during the news conference

An $11.3 million dollar research grant has been awarded the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study the causes of obesity and the diseases it spawns.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman announced the grant award made by the National Institutes of Health during a news conference on the Lincoln campus. It is a five-year grant which will expand the research being done by the Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases through Dietary Molecules.

“This five-year award recognizes the strong research programs that UNL has built to address one of the greatest health challenges facing the nation: obesity and obesity-related diseases,” Perlman said during the news conference.

Researchers believe that addressing obesity at the molecular level is the key to curbing what has become a national epidemic.

The long-term goal is to become a leader in nutrient signaling and the prevention of obesity and obesity-related diseases, which would include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to center director Janos Zempleni, Willa Cather Professor of molecular nutrition in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center will collaborate in the research.

Perlman said the award is a confirmation of the university’s research.

“The center is a significant expansion of our capabilities in biomedical research. Our researchers focus on what is happening at the molecular level in obesity-related diseases,” Perlman said. “This is the kind of innovative research which attracts funding and impacts our lives.”

Southeast Community College to add more classes to attract more students

Southeast Community College has decided to take an unconventional route to stem declining enrollment: add new classes.

Community colleges throughout the country have had to deal with flat or even declining enrollment.

The Southeast campuses at Lincoln, Beatrice, and Milford have seen enrollment grow by less than a percent in the past 10 years.

Southeast Community College President Paul Illich says the college is making moves it believes are right for the two-year school, not because of national trends, but to meet demand.

“Because that’s really our key mission is to meet the demand for higher education in our service area and, of course, there is student demand and there is employer demand,” Illich tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “So, I think there’s a great deal of opportunity here.”

Illich says surveys indicate that more would enroll at Southeast if wait lists were reduced and classes could be offered at various, non-conventional times.

The number of new students enrolling at Southeast peaked in 2010 with 7, 600. Around 6,200 new students enrolled last year.

Wayne State’s freshman class of 700 moves in today

It’s move-in day at Wayne State College, where President Curt Frye says it will be a busy day, especially for the freshmen.

“We’re going to be just a shade under 3,600 students total,” Fry says. “We have about 698 freshmen that are registered. What I would advise them to do is pull up, unload and move out.”

About 20-percent of the student body at the Wayne institution comes from surrounding states: Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Frye says financial aid is available to those both in-state and out-of-state students.

“Through our foundation and the board of trustees, we have several scholarships that we award,” Frye says. “Some of them are based on academic performance, some of them are based on need. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 80% of our students have some sort of financial assistance.”

He says the majority of incoming students have undecided majors, but the counseling and advising centers are designed to help new students decide on a direction.

Classes start at Wayne State on Monday.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton