CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health) is a coordinated school health program that focuses on physical activity, healthy food choices, and the prevention of tobacco use for children from preschool through 8th grade. Utilizing classroom curriculum, physical education curriculum, child nutrition services programs, and a family Home Team program, CATCH improves children’s health behaviors and reduces the risk of childhood obesity.1

Drawing on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coordinated school health model, the CATCH program was formulated in the early 1990s to utilize a holistic approach to children's health. This is accomplished through the involvement of classroom teachers, physical education teachers, school nutritionists, the general community, and the students and their families.

Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CATCH was developed by child health experts at University of Texas School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and University of California at San Diego. The ongoing development of CATCH research and development is through the Michael and Susan Dell Center for the Advancement for Healthy Living at the University of Texas.

CATCH's original acronym was Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health, which was the main trial done from 1991-1994 in 96 schools in Austin, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and San Diego and involved over 5,000 ethnically diverse third graders. This trial included a three year post tracking study and an institutionalization study, and was one of the largest school health promotion studies in the United States.

The results of the trial were that students in the CATCH program were more physically active during physical education classes and outside of school, improved self-reported food choice behavior, and the school cafeterias offered meals lower in fat. These changes were maintained three years after the main trial ended.2 Drs. Steve Kelder, Deanna Hoelscher, and Guy Parcel of the University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) led the transition from the study trial to the CATCH program for schools.

The UTSPH team launched demonstration projects in more than 2,500 Texas elementary schools in 1997, assisted by funding from the Paso Del Norte Health Foundation, the CDC, and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

As the CATCH program began to spread in the United States, recognition was also beginning in Canada. In 1998, the Canadian Health Behavior Research Group recognized CATCH as “Best Practices” in their International Scan for Best Practices in Heart Health. CATCH was recognized as a program that impacted health behavior and improved children’s health environment. Action for Healthy Kids included CATCH on their list of successful programs for children's fitness and nutrition. CATCH's acronym was updated to stand for Coordinated Approach To Child Health. With the growing concerning over childhood obesity and its inherent health risks, CATCH was part of a follow up study and helped reduce childhood obesity risk and level in El Paso, Texas.

The CATCH program has expanded to include a CATCH Training Program and a CATCH Coordination Took Kit for elementary and middle school. Training options include onsite, online, and a train-the-trainer. The CATCH Kids Club for after school enhances opportunity for physical activity and impacting healthy eating habits in a recreational setting. In addition, CATCH Early Childhood (CEC) was rolled out in 2010 for child care and Head Start sites. CEC includes a physical activity, nutrition, and a garden-based component.

NHLBI rolled out the We Can! program in 2005, and CATCH Kid's Club became one of We Can!'s threefold approach to enhancing child and family physical activity habits and nutrition. CATCH provides hundreds of all inclusive, non-elimination, moderate to vigorous physical activities. In 2006, CATCH was awarded the Secretary's Innovation and Prevention Award from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

FlagHouse, a supplier of education, recreation, and physical activity resources, began partnering with CATCH and became the publisher, marketer, and distributer of the program. FlagHouse hosts, a CATCH newsletter, and continues to support the diffusion of CATCH to schools, YMCAs, park and recreation efforts, health departments, and networking with foundation support.3

At the Weight of the Nation Conference held in May of 2012 in Washington, D.C. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded CATCH with the Systems Change Award for the program’s approach in helping to prevent childhood obesity.4 CATCH is also advocated in the 2012 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report called Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention.5

  • 1. “CATCH Research and Development.” CATCH: Coordinated Approach to Child Health. < > 8 Feb. 2012.
  • 2. “CATCH History and Success 9-28-10.” Personal correspondence to Playground Professionals from Carol Caldara. 9 Feb. 2012.
  • 3. “Healthy Habits are Easy to CATCH!” Personal correspondence to Playground Professionals from Carol Caldara. 9 Feb. 2012.
  • 4. “CDC recognizes obesity prevention and control initiatives with Pioneering Innovation awards.” The Wall Street Journal. MarketWatch. PR Newswire. < > 15 May 2012.
  • 5. “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.” Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. < > 15 May 2012.