KishHealth System

April 19, 2016

Shade Tree (1)

Students show off crafts after lesson on sun shade

KishHealth System’s Kishwaukee Hospital, now part of Northwestern Medicine, have used CATCH to positively impact the lives of 5,084 children in elementary and middle schools, summer camps, after school programs and YMCAs. They have also used Ray and the Sunbeatables™: A Sun Safety Curriculum for Preschoolers to teach over 100 children across preschools and YMCAs. Their CATCH program, spanning three counties and led by hospital staff, is an excellent example of how local health systems can use their resources to spearhead obesity and cancer prevention efforts in their communities.

The History of KishHealth System and CATCH

The implementation of CATCH by KishHealth System began in 2010, when a community-wide health assessment revealed that obesity was the top health disparity in their service area. The position of “Community Health Liason” was created and is currently held by CATCH Champion and Master Trainer Lisa Cumings. The goal of Lisa’s job is to improve the health of her community, focused on obesity, especially in children.

Genoa Kingston

Photo by Monica Maschak –

Lisa started her role by conducting a lot of research. When she looked into programing at the area schools, she saw there was no nutrition education in grades K-5; students started health education in sixth grade. Her research revealed that CATCH was an effective program for teaching both nutrition and physical education curriculum, and that the local health department had led an effort to get CATCH implemented in area schools in 2006. However, grant funds used to purchase the curriculum for schools did not include training, so teachers didn’t know what to do with the program and it sat unused.

KishHealth System organized a pilot in 2011 in a low-income school that used CATCH to its greatest extent, in an effort to prove its effectiveness. The school provided healthy snacks like fruit and veggie bars, hosted several family dance nights, and sent CATCH activities home for students to share with their parents. Lisa taught nutrition lessons to every grade level, and PE teachers incorporated CATCH PE lessons, tracking their progress with the System for Observing Fitness and Instruction Time (SOFIT).

For more information, read the CATCH Tyler project report provided by KishHealth System.

When the district’s school board learned the results of this pilot, they were thrilled. The superintendent requested that CATCH be implemented in all eight elementary schools.

Up to this point, Lisa had been teaching CATCH nutrition lessons on her own and the expansion to eight schools would be too much without adding members to the CATCH team. A soluation was found when KishHealth System began partnering with Northern Illinois University (NIU), providing dietetics students to assist in teaching nutrition lessons under Lisa’s direction. The CATCH program has continued to grow and gain a positive reputation. Now students from the NIU programs of Kinesiology, Public Health, and nursing also help teach the program.

See more recent reports from SOFIT data provided by Cortland Elementary School

Cortland Pre and Post

How Kishhealth system uses CATCH and Sunbeatables™ curriculum today

KishHealth System remains a key player in organizing CATCH in their area, and they’ve expanded into three school districts in Illinois: DeKalb, Genoa and Sycamore. Lisa leads twice-yearly teaching labs to ensure that the volunteers and students teaching the CATCH curriculum feel comfortable in the classroom. Teacher confidence is very high, and the students are enjoying the program.

Are our shadows long - good

Children engaged in “Are Our Shadows Long” game

KishHealth System was one of the first organizations to use the Sunbeatables™ program in 2015, with Lisa training staff from three preschool centers to use the curriculum. Sites are excited to continue to use the program, and were thrilled to learn K-1 curriculum would become available in August 2016.

Teachers are making use of the Sunbeatables™ curriculum during the summer, but are excited to make use of it in the spring and year round as well.  “Sun Safety is not just in the summer time. We need to be aware of it also during the school year,” says Monique, who leads much of the sun safety instruction in the area.

Lisa Cumings reports that the curriculum has been particularly helpful in areas where children were more likely to get sunburn. “Parents had been asking what we were doing to prevent sunburn during the summertime, and they are happy to know that we now have this curriculum that keeps their kids sun safe,” says Lisa.

KishHealth System continues to expand the number of schools using CATCH and Sunbeatables™ with great success, and hopes to extend their reach to several more schools and districts in the coming year.


Further resources