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.

4-H encourages healthy eating at state fair with “blender-bikes”

When you think of food at the Nebraska State Fair, often what comes to mind are corn dogs, popcorn, pork tenderloins and deep fried things on a stick. This year, 4-H leaders are trying to change that perception.

Bob Meduna, head of Nebraska 4-H youth development, says they will promote exercise at the fair today with a smoothie-making competition and what are called blender-bikes.

“We’ll have different recipes for smoothies, nutritious things like strawberry and yogurt or peaches and yogurt,” Meduna says. “We’ll put the ingredients in the blender and then it’s attached to a bicycle.” It’s part of a state fair promotion called Eat-4-Health.

“The youth will actually pedal the bicycle and run the blender,” Meduna says. “They’ll get off and they’ll taste the different recipes and see which they like the best. What we’re featuring is healthy nutrition and exercise, both at the same time.”

While the Nebraska State Fair isn’t typically thought of as a haven for healthy eating, Meduna thinks the audience will be receptive to the idea, as the blender-bikes are set up side-by-side.

“They’ll really get into it, especially when you have a little bit of competition,” Meduna says. “We’ve got a couple different recipes and they get to taste it afterwards. If you’ve never had these smoothies, very tasty, fresh fruit, very healthy.”

He says 4-H members will be on-hand to encourage students in grades K-through-six to participate in simple, fun group dance and fitness activities designed to burn calories and promote health. They’ll also share important information about calories, serving sizes and provide tips for maintaining active lifestyles through better food choices, exercise and other activities.


Summit to focus on benefits of physician assistants in rural areas

Dr. Michael Huckabee, UNMC

Dr. Michael Huckabee, UNMC

A national conference in Omaha next month will explore the role physician assistants play in the changing world of health care, especially in rural areas. Dr. Michael Huckabee is director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s PA Education Division.

“You know there are barriers in rural primary care and a lot of this is the change that is required in health care reform and dealing with some of the misperceptions that come with that,” Huckabee says. “The PA is not in competition or making people leave their doctors. Unique to PAs, we, by state laws in every state in the country, must be linked to a physician’s practice.”

Huckabee says the increased need for health care is expected to be a burden to small communities that may not have the infrastructure and workforce to provide those services.

“There are just not enough doctors to go around,” Huckabee says. “Physician assistants, by their very name, are linked to physicians to extend that care.” The fast-evolving health care landscape has created a time of change and challenges for the entire medical profession, he says, though some people may be unclear about what it is PAs do.

“All PAs are trained in the model of primary care so they’re equipped to manage acute and chronic health care problems of all types within the scope of their physicians’ practice,” he says.

The conference is called “Advancing Rural Primary Care,” and it’s scheduled for September 11th and 12th at the Hilton Omaha Hotel. Huckbee says there will be a slate of national speakers.

He says, “All of them are here to address how PAs can effectively be utilized in rural communities to continue to extend the care of physicians.”

The conference is being co-hosted by the University of Iowa and Des Moines University, as well as Union College in Lincoln, the University of South Dakota and Wichita State University. The conference is tailored for those who hire and use PAs. It’s geared toward administrators, health care leaders, academicians, policy makers, physicians and PAs.

For more information on the conference, visit:>


Government tightening restrictions on painkillers

The government is cracking down on how doctors prescribe opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and other addictive drugs. Dr. Jeff Baldwin is the Vice-Chair of Education and a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and says this is due to an increasing number of deaths due to overdose. He says this will impact those who use the drugs but don’t abuse them.

Dr. Baldwin says physicians will need to write prescriptions for each refill and they will not be able to call them in to a pharmacy.  He says the medical community has mixed opinions of the new restrictions.

Dr. Baldwin says the medications are very effective in treating pain but unfortunately they are also very addictive. He says the addiction is both physical and psychological and the new restrictions are aimed at preventing that from happening. He says the demand for hydrocodone as a street drug is very high and theft is a real concern. He recommends those with left over medication get rid of it when it is no longer needed. There are reports of children or grandchildren swiping the medication to use or sell. There have even been reports of medication theft during an open house in an attempt to sell a home.

Sen. Dubas steps into new position with association

Sen. Annette Dubas/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Annette Dubas/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton will become the Executive Director for the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations.

It is a newly created position at the organization founded in 1983 with mental health providers and consumer groups across the state.

“Our members include rural and metropolitan area providers, hospitals, non-profit organizations, consumer groups, private practitioner groups, adult and children service program providers. The selection of Senator Dubas as Executive Director for our organization was unanimously supported within our membership and we are thrilled to have such a distinguished leader promote our focus on excellence in behavioral health service delivery,” Connie Barnes, President of NABHO and Executive Director for Behavioral Health Specialist, Inc. in Norfolk, NE, said in a written statement released by the group.