Press Release

August 21, 2008


State public health director announces expansion of program to combat childhood obesity

 CATCH – Coordinated Approach to Child Health to be implemented in 9 more schools throughout the state  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, today announced that nine additional schools in Illinois will begin implementing the CATCH Program – Coordinated Approach to Child Health. Today’s announcement continues Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s efforts to address the obesity problem by changing children’s attitudes and behaviors toward nutrition and physical activity.

“We are facing an obesity epidemic across the nation and here in Illinois. In a recent Illinois survey, almost 40 percent of 8-year-olds surveyed were already overweight. Children who are overweight have a greater risk of developing diabetes and other chronic illnesses that will last the rest of their lives,” Dr. Arnold said. “I applaud the Governor’s commitment to improving the health and welfare of our children. By implementing programs, such as CATCH, we teach our kids about the importance of physical activity and the benefits of eating healthy and how both with help them live longer, healthier lives.”

The CATCH Program brings schools, families, and communities together to teach children how to be healthy for a lifetime. CATCH is effective because healthy behaviors are reinforced through a coordinated approach - in the classroom, in the cafeteria, in physical education, at home and after school. CATCH includes a K-5 grade classroom health education curriculum that teaches children to identify, practice and adopt healthy eating and physical activity habits. In the school cafeteria, food service personnel deliver meals with lower total fat and lower saturated fat and help coordinate healthy messages with the rest of the school. The CATCH physical education curriculum offers children of all abilities the opportunity to develop skills and appreciation for healthy activity.

Susan Rhodes is the Principal at Iles School in Springfield where the CATCH program has been successfully implemented.

“We started off having a wellness committee that integrated our school nurse, our cafeteria manager, a couple of classroom teachers from the lower and upper grades, me and the PE teacher. The idea was that we all were speaking the same language to students about nutrition and physical fitness activities at school and at home,” said Rhodes.

Being overweight is a serious health concern for children and adolescents. Data from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (1976–1980 and 2003–2004) show the prevalence of overweight is increasing:

  • Children aged 2–5 years, prevalence increased from 5 percent to almost 14 percent;
  • Children aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5 percent to almost 19 percent;
  • Children aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5 percent to 17.4 percent.

The Illinois CATCH program initiative was implemented in January 2004 by the Department to promote healthy eating and physical activity among elementary schoolchildren. Nineteen pilot schools were selected to participate based on: current cardiovascular health, obesity, diabetes and environmental program efforts within the community; previous involvement in similar types of efforts through the Department’s Health and Wellness Initiative grant program; an expressed interest in the CATCH program; and geographical distribution in the state.

Physical education classes at these schools were observed prior to CATCH training and again six to 12 months after implementation to measure the effectiveness of the physical education component. Follow-up evaluations completed at the end of the 2005 school year showed moderate to vigorous physical activity in physical education classes increased from a baseline of around 46 percent to almost 61 percent of class time.

With the additional nine schools, a total of 111 schools in Illinois have been funded for the CATCH Program.

The following is a list of the additional schools implementing CATCH for the 2008-09 school year.

  • Fairfield Academy - Chicago
  • Hefferan Elementary School - Chicago
  • Jesse Owens Community Academy – Chicago
  • May Community Academy – Chicago
  • Forest View School – Mt. Prospect
  • Black Hawk Elementary School – Springfield
  • Feitshans Academy – Springfield
  • Harvard Park Elementary School - Springfield
  • Lindsay Elementary School - Springfield

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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