The childhood obesity epidemic in America is a national health crisis. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in 2009–2010, 16.9% of children between ages 2 and 19 in the United States were classified as obese. Since 1980, obesity rates among children and adolescents have nearly tripled.
The Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH) program is considered a leading example of a program that has demonstrated improvements to health behavior among children through the promotion of physical activity and healthy food choices. CATCH works to build an alliance of parents, teachers, child nutrition personnel, school staff, and community partners to help teach children and their families how to establish healthy habits. This evidence-based health program, which supports the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative, has been implemented in thousands of schools and after-school organizations across the United States and Canada.
The program was first implemented as a clinical trial from 1991 to 1994 and evaluated in four regional sites. At the completion of the main trial, CATCH succeeded in decreasing fat consumption and increasing physical activity among children and adolescents.1 Moreover, these behavior changes were maintained for 3 years after participants completed the program.2
Building on these positive results, the CATCH program has been implemented successfully throughout the country. CATCH Texas is particularly successful, with approximately 3,000 elementary schools and 600 middle schools taking part in the program. A study in Travis County, Texas, demonstrated that a community-enhanced CATCH program reduced overweight or obesity in mostly low-income student populations.3 In the United States–Mexico border region of El Paso, Texas, a replication study revealed that CATCH slowed the increase of overweight or obesity among mostly low-income students.4
1Luepker RV, Perry CL, McKinlay SM, et al. Outcomes of a field trial to improve children's dietary patterns and physical activity. The Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health. CATCH collaborative group. JAMA. 1996 Mar 13;275(10):768-76.
2Nader PR, Stone EJ, Lytle LA, et al. Three-year maintenance of improved diet and physical activity: the CATCH cohort. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999 Jul;153(7):695-704.
3Hoelscher DM, Springer AE, Ranjit N, et al. Reductions in child obesity among disadvantaged school children with community involvement: the Travis County CATCH Trial. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18 Suppl 1:S36-44.
44Coleman KJ, Tiller CL, Sanchez J, et al. Prevention of the epidemic increase in child risk of overweight in low-income schools: the El Paso coordinated approach to child health. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Mar;159(3):217-24.