Healthy U (New Jersey YMCAs)
December 29, 2015
In 2008, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance created Healthy U – a collaborative initiative to combat the obesity epidemic among New Jersey children. The goal of the program is to prevent childhood obesity through nutrition education, increased physical activity, and family involvement. Healthy U utilizes the CATCH curriculum to promote healthy behavior changes at home and in school that can last a lifetime. Healthy U is the largest implementer of the CATCH curriculum in the country.
“From the outcomes and evaluations made after the program was founded, we saw that we were making positive changes in physical activity and nutrition behaviors,” said Sue Cornell, Program Director for Healthy U. Therefore, in 2012, Healthy U began to expand beyond after school programs and into preschools and schools.
Since 2008, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey has invested nearly $5 million in creating, implementing and expanding Healthy U. The program is offered in all 21 New Jersey counties in preschool, afterschool and school-based settings at more than 550 sites. At the preschool level, Healthy U impacts 4,500 children ages 3-5, at 80 YMCA sites, and as an afterschool program, Healthy U impacts 20,000 children ages 5-13 at 400 YMCA sites.
Sue has witnessed the CATCH curriculum have a real impact on children’s understanding of healthy eating. “Children are able to have the experience of trying new foods, and starting to make the distinction between healthy and not-so-healthy,” she says. “When you break it down into Go-Slow-and-Whoa, they can start to recognize it at a really early age, and that starts to travel through the family and impact the parents.”
By 2019, the program will impact over 70,000 children ages 3-13 plus their family members. Healthy U is evaluated annually by the Montclair State University Center for Research and Evaluation on Education and Human Services (CREEHS) to assess program impact.
How do we know it’s working?
Healthy U New Jersey Afterschool changes in Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity:
The above graph depicts the percent of time children in Healthy U afterschool programs spent in MVPA according to SOFIT data. Over the past 7 years, Healthy U has sustained an increase of 42% over baseline
Additionally, student surveys report:
- decrease in watching television
- decrease in texting
- increase in vigorous physical activity
- increase in 30 minute play outside (consistently almost every follow-up)
Parent surveys report:
- increase in children requesting favorite vegetables and fruits
- decrease in requests for unhealthy snacks
- increase in children watch fewer than 2 hours of television daily
- increase in behaviors supporting healthy food choices for their children
Additional information from Healthy U:
Video commemorating 8 years of Healthy U:
Video highlighting the efforts of Horizon’s Procamp: