What is CATCH?
CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) is an evidence-based coordinated school health program designed to promote physical activity and healthy food choices in elementary school-aged children. By teaching children that eating healthy and being physically active every day can be fun, the CATCH Program has proven that establishing healthy habits in childhood can promote behavior changes that can last a lifetime.
The CATCH Program brings schools, families, and communities together to teach children how to be healthy for a lifetime. CATCH is effective because healthy behaviors are reinforced through a coordinated approach—in the classroom, in the cafeteria, in physical education, at home and after school. CATCH is research-based and proven to work. And, most importantly, CATCH makes nutrition learning and physical activity fun!
The Five Components
- In the Classroom: The CATCH Go for Health Series is a pre-K-8 classroom health education curriculum that teaches children to identify, practice, and adopt healthy eating and physical activity habits. Hands-on activities encourage changes in behavior that support healthful eating and physical activity patterns—primary risk factors of heart disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and obesity.
- In Physical Education: CATCH PE combines high energy, non-elimination activities with teaching strategies that keep kids moving and having fun. CATCH PE significantly increases physical activity levels of students during PE class, and provides for a variety of learning experiences for students of all abilities.
- In the Cafeteria: The CATCH Program considers school cafeterias an extension of the classroom. Through the Eat Smart component, breakfast and lunch become opportunities for children to learn, practice and adopt healthy eating habits. School Food Service personnel prepare healthier meals and help coordinate healthy messages with the rest of the school.
- At Home: The CATCH Family component is designed to get students, parents and extended family members involved in practicing and adopting healthy eating and physical activity behaviors at home. By doing so, the home environment becomes an extension of the CATCH Program at school.
- In the Community: Implemented in community-based programs across North America, CATCH Kids Club has been designed for after-school and summer enrichment settings. Developed from the nationally-recognized CATCH Program, healthy messages are reinforced beyond the school day via physical activity and nutrition education sessions.
Research and Development
The CATCH Program has been extensively evaluated in more than 80 scientific peer-reviewed publications. Originally known as the Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health, the controlled clinical CATCH trial was evaluated in 1991–1994 in 96 schools (56 intervention, 40 control) in four states (California, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas) and included more than 5,100 students with diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. CATCH was a multi-component, multi-year coordinated school health promotion program designed to decrease fat, saturated fat and sodium in children’s diets, increase physical activity and prevent tobacco use (Perry et al., 1990). The CATCH trial was the largest school-based health promotion study ever funded in the United States (through the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute).
CATCH included school environmental modifications related to food consumption, physical activity and tobacco use. CATCH cafeterias were instructed to serve foods lower in fat, saturated fat and sodium; the physical education teachers were instructed to include greater involvement of children and to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 50 percent of class time; and school-wide policies were implemented to establish non-tobacco use. The CATCH classroom curriculum used social cognitive theory to target third to fifth grade students and focused on multiple health behaviors, including eating habits, physical activity and cigarette smoking, as well as family and home-based programs to complement in-school activities (Perry et al., 1990).
Results of a recent study in El Paso, Texas showed that CATCH successfully slowed the increase in risk of overweight or overweight seen in a controlled group of school children. “Prevention of the Epidemic Increase in Child Risk of Overweight in Low-Income Schools: The El Paso Coordinated Approach to Child Health (Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 159, March 2005)” by Karen Coleman, Ph.D., Claire Lola Tiller, M.A., et al.
CATCH Around the World
In just a few short years, CATCH has been adopted in thousands of schools and communities across the United States. CATCH can also be found in Department of Defense Schools worldwide, including Japan and Germany. CATCH is also expanding to schools and after-school programs throughout Canada.