Understanding the Importance of Health Education in Schools

The most cost effective program proven to prevent childhood obesity.1

The Problem

Nearly one in three children in the United States are overweight or obese.2 Obese children face an increased risk for chronic illness and miss more school days and have poorer academic outcomes than their normal-weight peers.3,4

The Solution is CATCH

CATCH promotes physical activity and healthy food choices in preschool through middle school aged children and their families. CATCH is based on the CDC Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model in which health education and the creation of a healthy school environment, and family/community involvement work together to support youth in a healthy lifestyle.

Over 120 peer reviewed scientific publications support the effectiveness of CATCH in increasing physical activity and healthy eating5,6 and reducing overweight and obesity.7,8,9

CATCH reduces overweight and obesity.

A replication study of CATCH in El Paso, Texas reported a significant 11% difference between treatment and control children in preventing the onset of overweight and obesity.7 In Travis County, Texas, implementation of CATCH led to a significant 9% difference in 4th grade overweight and obesity.9

CATCH produces lasting changes in dietary and physical activity behaviors.

The main CATCH intervention trial found program effects for reducing fat consumption and increasing physical activity in children and adolescents.5 These changes were maintained three years post intervention.6

Better physical fitness is correlated with better academic achievement.

The PASS & CATCH study evaluated an enhanced version of CATCH and demonstrated that 60 minutes of physical activity per day (achieved via participation in physical education, recess, and classroom movement activities) improved math and reading achievement among elementary school students.10

CATCH is cost effective.

A cost-effectiveness study found the cost-effectiveness ratio for CATCH, or the intervention costs per quality-adjusted life years (QALY), to be $889.68. Historically, the U.S. adopts health care treatments that cost less than $50,000 per QALY; therefore, the CATCH program is an excellent public investment. The CATCH program costs $17,031 less per school than the estimated present value of future costs incurred if the students were not exposed to the CATCH program.11

  1. Cawley J. The economics of childhood obesity. Health Affairs. 2010;29(3):364-371. Full Text
  2. Institute of Medicine. Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation. Washingtion, DC: The National Academies Press; 2012.
  3. Geier AB, Foster GD, Womble LG, et al. The relationship between relative weight and school attendance among elementary schoolchildren. Obesity. 2007;15(8):2157-2161. Full Text
  4. Taras, H, Potts-Datema, W. Obesity and student performance at school. Journal of School Health. 2005;75(8):291-295. Full Text
  5. Luepker 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). J Am Med Assoc. 1996;275:768-776. Full Text
  6. Nader P, Stone EJ, Lytle LA, et al. Three year maintenance of improved diet and physical activity: the CATCH cohort. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999;153(7): 695-704. Download PDF
  7. Coleman KJ, Tiller CL, Sanchez MA, 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;159:217-222. Full Text
  8. Hoelscher DM, Kelder SH, Perez A, et al. Changes in the regional prevalence of child obesity in 4th, 8th, and 11th grade students in Texas from 2000-2002 to 2004-2005. Obesity. 2010;18(7):1360-1368. Full Text
  9. Hoelscher DM, Springer AE, Ranjit N, et al. Reductions in child obesity among disadvantaged school children with community involvement: the Travis County CATCH Trial. Obesity. 2010;18(S1):S36-44. Full Text
  10. Murray N, Garza J, Diamond P, et al. Physical activity improves academic achievement in elementary school children. Science. 2009; under review. Download PDF
  11. Brown HS, Perez A, Li YP, Hoelscher DM, Kelder SH, Rivera R. The cost-effectiveness of a school-based overweight program. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2007;4:47. Full Text