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CATCH Works to Reduce Childhood Obesity

A consistently effective weapon in Texas’ fight against childhood obesity is the Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH), a program first developed in the 1990s by a consortium of institutions including the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Texas public schools use CATCH to improve children’s health by promoting physical activity, encouraging healthy food choices and preventing tobacco use in elementary-aged children.100

Texas public schools use CATCH to improve children’s health by promoting physical activity, encouraging healthy food choices and preventing tobacco use.

As of July 2010, more than 2,500 elementary schools in Texas were using CATCH methods. Due to its success in Texas, more than 7,000 schools in 22 states, Washington, D.C. and Canada have adopted the program as well.

CATCH’s premise is simple: teach young children, their families and members of their community that eating fresh, healthy foods and exercising are fun. The program includes classroom and physical education curricula, child nutrition services and family involvement.

CATCH begins in kindergarten with a basic health class and an introduction to nutrition, progressing to eighth-grade classes in heart health and diabetes education. At every age, school food service programs, “reinforcement” classes, physical activities and family and after-school events are used to provide nutrition information.101

Preschoolers participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity combined with music, hand puppets and vocabulary keywords in English, Spanish and French. Cartoon characters teach youngsters about healthy eating, physical activity and tobacco avoidance. Children through third grade are encouraged to take information about what they have learned home to encourage family participation. By fourth grade, children study diabetes prevention; in fifth grade, they learn about tobacco avoidance.102

CATCH teachers require special training. Program materials, including posters, booklets, games and take-home information, cost from $1.48 to $7.38 per child. In Travis County, startup costs for 97 schools introducing the program over four years were $5,000 per school for training support and materials and another $1,500 annually to replace materials; these costs, moreover, do not include teacher and support staff salaries, training or program evaluations.103

For that reason, part of CATCH’s success has been generous private funding. In Austin, the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living has provided three grants totaling $5.9 million to offer the program through all schools in the Austin Independent School District.104

In El Paso, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation supplied $4.2 million from 1999 to 2006 to introduce the program in El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, and Doña Ana and Otero counties in New Mexico.105 In 2005, the Houston Endowment Inc. gave $2.4 million to implement CATCH in all 400 schools in the Houston Independent School District.106

End Notes

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