HCN News & Notes

Baystate Children’s Hospital Expands Pediatric Weight-management Program

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Children’s Hospital’s successful MIGHTY Program for pediatric weight management, held since 2007 in conjunction with the Springfield YMCA, has expanded to serve the Westfield community.

The new Westfield-based MIGHTY Program — a partnership with Kohl’s Cares, Baystate Children’s Hospital, and the YMCA of Greater Westfield — offers free treatment for childhood obesity through a year-long group program that emphasizes physical activity, nutrition, and change of habits not just for the child enrolled, but for the entire family.

“For years, families have traveled from throughout Western Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut to attend our pediatric weight-management program and to participate in MIGHTY. Our expansion into Westfield will now allow us to serve some of those families closer to home,” said Kara Miller, MIGHTY program coordinator.

MIGHTY, which stands for Moving, Improving, and Gaining Health Together at the YMCA, provides fitness evaluation, individual fitness prescriptions, group exercise sessions, individual and group nutritional counseling, and strategies for maintaining lifelong health.

“The program doesn’t focus simply on diet and exercise, but includes a behavior component to examine how our thoughts and feelings impact lifestyle choices,” Miller said. “MIGHTY is a safe place to discuss how weight affects us physically and emotionally. And the group format allows families to come together to support one another.”

Dr. Chrystal Wittcopp, medical director of the Pediatric Weight Management Program at Baystate Children’s Hospital, said childhood obesity remains an epidemic in the U.S. and the region today.

“Twenty-five percent of children in the Pioneer Valley are considered obese,” she noted. “That means they have a body-mass index that puts them at increased risk as they enter adulthood for diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, gallbladder disease, asthma, and bone and joint problems. Already we are seeing more and more youngsters developing type II diabetes, which is commonly developed by overweight adults. I can’t say enough about how the MIGHTY program has made a difference in the lives of those obese children who have enrolled in classes along with their family members.”

To be eligible for the MIGHTY Program, participants must have a body-mass index above the 95th percentile, and a medical clearance form from their pediatrician. To sign up for the free program, call Cindy Agan at the YMCA of Greater Westfield at (413) 568-8631, who will discuss the needed forms to participate and provide a date to attend a registration and information session at the Westfield YMCA.

Classes will be held on Tuesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. at the YMCA of Greater Westfield on 67 Court St. Current enrollment is open only to youngsters ages 10-13, with a summer session planned for those ages 8-10. Deadline to enroll for the free program for 10-13 year olds is Feb. 8.

Enrollment in the MIGHTY program also includes a free six-month membership to the YMCA of Greater Westfield. The membership includes two adults and the children of the household.

“It is our hope that the entire family will visit the Westfield YMCA on a daily basis to exercise and make changes together,” Wittcopp said.