APA-YMCA partnership helps families focus on healthy lifestyles

by APA Public Relations Staff

April 28, 2009 — The American Psychological Association, APA Division 42 (Psychologists in Independent Practice) and the National Council of the YMCAs of the USA (YMCA) are partnering to help people make healthy lifestyle choices for their mind and body.

APA's public education campaign goal of informing the public about the importance of psychology and mind/body health makes this relationship a natural fit. Both APA's Mind/Body Health and the YMCA's Activate America and Healthy Family Home public education campaigns focus on the importance of lifestyle and behavior to physical and mental health.

The APA public education campaign brings psychology to the public by having psychologists provide free workshops using the Mind/Body Health Toolkit, which includes pre-packaged presentations on stress, obesity and heart disease for use by APA members. Similarly, the YMCA is engaged in positive outreach messaging through its public education campaign.

Partnering with the YMCA provides APA and psychology with opportunities to reach large audiences with our public education campaign messages. The 2,663 YMCAs in the U.S. serve more than 20.2 million people each year. Additionally, there are 67.7 million households and 33.7 million children 14 and under who live within three miles of a YMCA.

"The partnership with the YMCA furthers APA's public education campaign goal of psychologists reaching the public and spreading the word about the connection between behaviors and health," says APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD.

On April 17th, Michael Ritz, PhD, and Jana Martin, PhD, public education coordinators in California, held a pilot workshop on healthy lifestyles for families in conjunction with the Y's Healthy Kids Day. Their presentation focused on changing behavior to ensure healthy eating and activity for adolescents. The workshop targeted parents and included take-home activities for children and families, as well as tip sheets and a resource list of books and websites on children and weight.

YMCA will conduct a similar pilot this summer in Maryland. Feedback from both the California and Maryland pilot programs will help shape a final workshop that will be available to psychologists who are involved in their state, provincial or territorial psychological association public education campaigns to engage with their local YMCA.

Psychologists in Delaware, Kansas, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming have already begun working with their YMCAs, participating in health fairs and offering workshops on managing stress.

"I've been delighted with the response from local Y's when I've contacted them about providing public education workshops," says Dr. Martin. "In this stressful time, YMCAs are very open to presentations by psychologists on stress and health, and the public is hungry for information it can use right away."

If you would like to join in these and other public education activities, contact your state, provincial or territorial psychological association for more information. To request a Mind/Body Health Toolkit, send an e-mail.