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How is the MIGHTY program working for Springfield kids?

January 15, 2020
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WHAT IS THE MIGHTY PROGRAM?

MIGHTY stands for “Moving, Improving, and Gaining Health Together at the YMCA”. It’s an intensive six-month group program that emphasizes physical activity, nutrition, and habit changes for the entire family. It is available at the YMCA of Greater Springfield, the YMCA of Greater Westfield, and the YMCA in Greenfield. Families that participate in MIGHTY receive a free six-month membership to one of these local YMCAs.

“MIGHTY is an opportunity for families to work together and connect with other children socially…a combination between behavioral health, nutrition, and fitness,” says Dr. Peter Thunfors, behavioral health clinician and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School-Baystate.

IS THE PROGRAM WORKING FOR FAMILIES?

Lindsay Watts, a fifth-year doctoral student from the University of Hartford, seeks to learn how this program is affecting young children and their families.

With the help of Dr. Thunfors, Watts will be conducting a study on the MIGHTY program called “The effects of a pediatric weight management program on self-esteem in children and adolescents with obesity.”

“The thing that interests me about MIGHTY is that it is not solely focused on weight loss,” explains Watts, who worked as a training therapist at Baystate in 2016.

During that time, she worked with children dealing with personal trauma, particularly unhealthy relationships with food. “MIGHTY is a program that focuses on global health – making smart choices with food and adopting good habits at every size. It helps children and families develop a healthier lifestyle.” On top of this, “the most unique part is that it’s based in the community, not within the hospital.”

WHAT ARE RESEARCHERS HOPING TO LEARN?

Using the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale, a questionnaire-type method, the study seeks to determine if/how the MIGHTY program improves a child’s self-confidence. The data will be collected anonymously from the first MIGHTY session and then again at the last session (after six months). The study also hopes to identify reasons that children and their families might quit the program before the six month mark.

“We will ask questions like ‘how can the program better match needs of the community?’” says Watts.

“Lindsay is coming into this study with a research background,” comments Dr. Thunfors. "The research she will collect during the study will help better the program and produce satisfying results. ”

HOW DOES SPRINGFIELD BENEFIT FROM THE MIGHTY PROGRAM?

“Springfield is considered ‘food insecure,' or a ‘food desert,’” explains Watts. “A ‘food desert’ is usually an urban or rural area where fresh, affordable, and healthy food is limited. It is determined by the distance to a grocery store.” According to Watts, “studies prove that the poorest parts of town are usually the farthest away from the grocery store. It’s easier for a family to go to a convenience store or fast food restaurant for a quick meal.”

“I hope we do find that children and their families feel more confident and empowered from this program and realize what their bodies are capable of,” concludes Watts.

Learn more about the MIGHTY program.