From the Field

Psychologists focus on mind-body health at Healthy Kids Day events

As part of the American Psychological Association’s partnership with the YMCA of the USA, psychologists participated in the nation’s largest health day for children and families

By Public Relations Staff

April 28, 2010 — On April 17, American Psychological Association (APA) member psychologists spoke about the connection between psychological and physical health at events held across the nation for YMCA Healthy Kids Day, the nation’s largest health day for children and families.

APA partners with the YMCA of the USA (APA-YMCA Partnership Helps Families Focus on Healthy Lifestyles) as part of our Mind/Body Health public education campaign, which uses local and national outreach activities to educate the public about the connection between psychological and physical health. The campaign promotes psychologists as the best-trained health care providers to support healthy lifestyle choices and behavioral change. Since 2009, psychologists in 20 state psychological associations have started collaborating with their local YMCAs.

More than 1,700 YMCAs take part in YMCA Healthy Kids Day activities each year. In 2009, more than 700,000 people participated in events across the country, enjoying games, demonstrations, arts and crafts, educational resources, healthy treats, and giveaways.

With this year’s theme of “Put Play in Your Day,” YMCA Healthy Kids Day offered families a chance to play together and learn more about wellness and healthy lifestyles. Psychologists took part in events in 10 states holding workshops including Making Healthy Choices for your Family, which was developed by the APA and YMCA.

They also staffed information booths and provided families with tips on living healthy and addressing childhood obesity.

In Meriden, Connecticut, psychologists Elaine Ducharme, PhD, and Melanie Farkas, PhD, gave a presentation to more than 50 children on making healthy choices. As part of the session, Dr. Ducharme led a breathing and relaxation exercise that included blowing bubbles with the children. 

“Everyone loved the bubbles,” said Ducharme, “One mom told me she felt that this exercise gave her information to help her son who had ADD slow things down in a fun way.”

In Nevada, three YMCAs held events attended by a total of seven psychologists and three graduate psychology students, reported Nevada public education coordinator Leanne Earnest, PhD. The YMCA staff especially appreciated the interactive nature of impromptu health skits from the graduate students said Dr. Earnest. At one YMCA, an estimated 500 people attended the event.

“Many parents and children stopped by to view items [at the Nevada Psychological Association booth] and to chat briefly,” said Dr. Earnest. “Parents expressed genuine concern about their children's weight and inactivity.”

In Maryland, psychologists offered Healthy Choices workshop and another on Resilience in Children and Teens. Early career psychologist Jessica Samson, PsyD, commented, “We all know about the mind-body connection and how important it is to consider both the psychological and physical factors of being healthy. Local psychologists working with local YMCAs can help bring this message to a wider audience.”

This was Dr. Samson’s first time leading the workshop on Making Healthy Choices for your Family.  “I was pleased to see that the preparation process was not too time consuming,” she said. “The PowerPoint template and handouts were all provided, so all I needed to do was familiarize myself with the material. As an early career psychologist, it was a great experience to get out into the community.”