CATCH Program: Promoting Community Health Education
Originating in the late 1980s as a research project funded by the National Heart and Lung Institute involving the University of California at San Diego, the University of Minnesota, Tulane University and The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH), the CATCH Program (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) promotes physical activity, healthy food choices and prevents tobacco use in elementary school aged children. It works by connecting the major influences of behavioral change – school, family, community, policy and the children themselves – through four coordinated components: the Eat Smart School Nutrition Program, K-5 Classroom curriculum, a Physical Education program, and a Family program. Results from the early impact study have been very promising.
The community health education program is vitally needed in Texas where almost 44 percent of fourth grade students and 37 percent of eighth grade students are overweight or obese, affecting their health, schoolwork, social interactions and long-term quality of life. Alarmingly, the prevalence of childhood obesity has doubled over the last 20 years and there is a coincident rise in Type 2 diabetes in children. The disease, on average, decreases the child’s life expectancy 19 years.
Research has shown that participation in the CATCH program successfully slowed the epidemic increase in childhood obesity rates. In addition, preliminary data from a Texas-wide health survey indicate a decrease in the number of overweight fourth graders who are enrolled in the CATCH program in El Paso County compared to other counties in Texas.
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is committed to supporting programs designed to reduce childhood obesity and to improving children’s health and fitness.