Sue Guyer, Distinguished Springfield Professor of Humanics (DSPH) for 2017-18

Bringing Wellness & Health to the Community

Bringing Wellness & Health to the Community

By Gennaro Martinelli | Fall 2017

M. Susan Guyer, DPE’03, professor and department chair of exercise science and sport studies, is Distinguished Springfield Professor of Humanics (DSPH) for 2017-18. “I was really shocked and in a state of disbelief when I got that phone call from our provost, Martha Potvin. I said, ‘Sure you have the right phone number?’ I was really overwhelmed,” she tells Triangle.

The phone call was indeed correct and Professor Guyer, as her DSPH focus, is having a busy year promoting a holistic approach to health and wellness in the community. “Statistics tell us that Hampden County is one of the least healthy of Massachusetts’ 14 counties. In fact, Hampden is highest in obesity, diabetes, and childhood obesity, way above national averages. Within the county, Springfield residents are more likely to be smokers and are less likely to engage in regular physical activity or eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day, compared to the state averages. When I looked at the programming we have at Springfield College, especially in health, wellness, and human performance, it’s a fantastic opportunity to reach out to the community and share our expertise to advocate for the health of our neighbors,” she explains.

Guyer planned a multi-faceted approach to promoting wellness in the community within the framework of the spirit, mind, body triad. The body segment focuses on such things as movement concepts, cardiovascular health, yoga, nutrition, and exercise programming; spirit embraces mindfulness based meditation and behavior modification programs; mind includes classes and coursework.

Before moving into the implementation of a 10-week program in the spring, Guyer conducted focus groups with 20 families from the neighborhood, including those from the Brookings Elementary School. “It is important that I have an understanding of what the community’s perceptions are, and what they need in the area of wellness and health. With that knowledge, we can develop programming that utilizes the knowledge base of our faculty and students to support the program. For example, our exercise science faculty and graduate students teach wellness, [faculty and students from] nutrition sciences counsel families on healthy food shopping, cooking and eating. Therapeutic recreation and physical education majors assist with physical activity programs, and that is only scratching the surface of the kinds of talent Springfield College offers. It is a pretty ambitious project for one year, but setting up the curriculum based on what people actually need, and doing implementation in the spring is what I have planned,” Guyer says.

Classroom sessions could be held on the campus or off campus at the Brookings School and other neighborhood venues. But Guyer sees many opportunities for utilizing College facilities for physical activities. “For exercise-related activities, our Wellness Center is great for weightlifting, a spin class, or yoga. We can use the multi-purpose rooms and the pool, as well.” Asked if she received any advice from Sam Headley, her colleague in the exercise science department and last year’s DSPH, Guyer says, “Sam told me, ‘Make it your own, and choose something you are passionate about.’ I think I definitely hit the mark with this project. There is some overlap between Sam’s study of sedentary behavior and my wellness focus, which I think is a good thing. It creates a nice continuum. ” 

Guyer hopes the project will be an ongoing model for healthy changes in the community. “It’s funny. I had this idea of doing a community wellness program back in 2009, and when I was honored with the DSPH, I went back and looked at that proposal, thinking ‘Wow I’m actually going to be able to get this off the ground.  It’s so cool.