St. Patrick’s Hospital- Missoula, MT

January 28, 2016

Since its initial implementation in 2002, the CATCH program in Missoula has grown to be a prime example of how CATCH can be integrated throughout an entire community, and touch a town’s culture in a number of different ways by involving schools, afterschool programs, and community partners like food banks and doctors’ offices.

Potato Head

The CATCH Program in Missoula was originally funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Missoula County in response to rising obesity rates reported by the CDC in 2002. After piloting CATCH for two years, community partners found through knowledge-based pre- and post-testing that CATCH was making a difference in how children were eating, and thinking about food and physical activity. CATCH helped area teachers add lessons about nutrition and healthy lifestyles to their daily lesson plans. Providence St. Patrick Hospital, the Missoula County Health Department, and the school district saw the importance of continuing this healthy initiative.

The hospital funded a part-time registered dietitian and community health specialist to implement the program more broadly by providing training, curricula and support for CATCH schools. St. Patrick’s CATCH staff expanded CATCH into school lunch programs to phase out unhealthy ingredients and introduce healthier alternatives, including salad bars and new fruits. To enhance communication among schools and partners, CATCH staff circulated a monthly newsletter, which later expanded and welcomed networking across the nation.

Today, the program employs a community health specialist called the “Community CATCH Champion.” She works with schools and agencies to formulate a plan for teaching PE and classroom curriculum, enhance menus, organize family events, and guide wellness committees. She also cultivates relationships with community partners and offers CATCH support and consulting to other hospitals.


CATCH is now woven into the Missoula “Community Health Improvement Plan,” and is truly a community-wide program. ‘GO, SLOW, and WHOA’ messaging can be found on school menus, cafeterias, at the pediatrician’s office, Parks and Rec Camps, YMCAs, the local food bank and the children’s museum. Given St. Patrick’s dedication to preventive care and community wellness, their effort to unite so many different players in their community behind a common goal of wellness has been regarded as a great success.

“The CATCH program lessons have been taught in Missoula Parks and Recreation’s Kids in Action summer youth day camps for almost 10 seasons now. Our campers talk about their lunches and snacks using the GO, SLOW, WHOA descriptions with their peers and our staff. CATCH presence in our camps has encouraged our staff to make better choices and become role models for the campers.”

-Ryan Yearous, Recreation Specialist, Missoula Parks and Recreation Program.

St. Patrick’s nurtures CATCH at Parks and Recreation by providing an annual booster training, curriculum, healthy snacks to complement lessons, and instructors who co-teach weekly lessons with camp leaders. CATCH camps consist of fun games; some are simple, like blindfold taste-testing new and unusual foods, and some are complex, like Dragon’s Tail. In this game, kids dodge one another to protect their tail (scarf) from being pulled. When their tail is pulled they must do five jumping jacks while naming their favorite GO foods to re-enter the game. CATCH staff introduces new activities each season, and let the kids vote on if they games get to stick around.

Missoula’s Food Bank embraces CATCH by providing a fun learning environment for children while their parents visit the food bank. St. Patrick’s co-supported a kid wellness area, including CATCH GO, Slow, and Whoa posters and CATCH coloring, crosswords puzzles, and other fun nutrition-based activity sheets. All visitors, including kids can experience learning about nutrition in a fun way.

The Missoula YMCA has embraced CATCH in their preschools and after-school programs. Over the past 10 years, YMCA staff has attended local CATCH trainings hosted by the national CATCH trainers and received booster trainings by the Missoula CATCH staff. Currently CATCH is engrained in four YMCA preschools and the after school programs. Each year, CATCH hosts an interactive booth at YMCA during their annual Healthy Kids Day event to support the family and home connection. Curriculum and trainings continue to be sponsored by St. Patrick’s.

In 2010, St. Patrick Hospital co-sponsored the GO Grow Grocery store exhibit at the Missoula Children’s Museum. This exhibit teaches kids how to make healthy food choices while shopping, and CATCH posters offers a guide on how to categorize foods as GO, SLOW, and WHOA for the children’s mock-shopping experience. CATCH staff taught lessons in the grocery store once a month during the first year to help kick-start the exhibit, and St. Patrick’s donated a CATCH curriculum to help sustain the program.

St. Patrick’s guided 10 school districts in CATCH implementation by hosting national CATCH trainings, purchasing curriculum, offering expert staff, and hosting a free annual Health Fair. “This program really made the children aware of many health issues. I noticed students making more healthy choices for snacks, even when they would bring treats for their birthday,” said a 3rd grade teacher.

St. Patrick’s will be hosting their twelfth annual Health Fair this year. Third and fourth graders from schools around Missoula County actively participate in a fun-filled half-day of health-related educational stations. The Health Fair gives nearly 600 children a hands-on, group learning session that enables to practice and learn about healthy lifestyles.

CATCH is now supported by a much larger new community-wide effort, “Let’s Move Missoula.” In 2007, the St. Patrick Hospital CATCH program won recognition from its parent organization, Providence Health & Services, with the Providence Health & Services Mission Leadership Award, which rewards efforts that help the underserved or vulnerable populations in the community. This award is a testament to the program’s continued success, and the ways in which it furthers St. Patrick’s mission of wellness.