Success Stories

CATCH in Fairfield County

Adopting the CATCH program at
Kelly Miller Elementary School, Fairfield, SC

Agnes Macfie Russell
Registered Dietitian
Chair, Eat Smart Move More Fairfield


The Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Program encompasses every aspect of the school environment to promote healthy lifestyles. It is designed to “build an alliance of parents, teachers, child nutrition personnel, school staff, and community partners to teach children and their families how to be healthy for a lifetime.” 1The CATCH Program consists of four components: Eat Smart School Nutrition Guide, Go for Health Classroom curriculum, CATCH physical Education, and family Home Team activities. All of these areas reinforce positive healthful behaviors throughout a child’s day and make it clear that good health and learning go hand in hand.1

Kelly Miller Elementary School (KMES) is a small 270 student school in rural Fairfield County, SC. Bringing CATCH to KMES was truly a collaborative effort on part of the Fairfield Community Coordinating Council’s (FCCC) Nutrition Committee. The John A. Martin Primary Health Care Center, an active member of the FCCC Nutrition Committee and part of the School of Medicine of USC received a grant from the Fullerton Foundation to help build and support the existing community nutrition network in Fairfield County.

With this funding, FCCC Nutrition Committee decided to focus on working with school aged children to support preventative health programs that provided nutrition education, physical activity and family engagement. CATCH was a perfect fit –it was evidenced based and it worked.

The CATCH Program has scientifically demonstrated that school environments can be created that effect healthy behavioral changes in children. As published in the Journal of the American Medical Association2, the CATCH Main Trial (1991-1994) demonstrated that CATCH:
1. Reduced total fat and saturated fat content of school lunches;
2. Increased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during P.E. classes, and;
3. Improved students’ self-reported eating and physical activity behaviors.
Furthermore, the effects of the CATCH Main trial persisted over three years without continued intervention.1

With the help of funds from the Fullerton Foundation, the FCCC Nutrition Committee was able to purchase the curriculum, equipment and activity boxes for the school.

With the curriculum and equipment on the way, the FCCC Nutrition Committee began working closely with the Coordinator of Comprehensive Health at the Fairfield School District to help acquire a grant from SC Healthy Schools to cover the cost of the CATCH training. The school district stood firmly behind this endeavor and paid the teachers for attending the Saturday, January 5, 2008 training. Training day was very successful with 95% of KMES staff attending, as well as members of the FCCC Nutrition Committee, SC Healthy Schools, Fairfield School District administrators and SCICORD.

The CATCH Texas Team has conducted workshops and presentations in over 20 states around the country, Canada and around the world for the U.S. Department of Defense. CATCH Training Workshops are fun, dynamic and multi-dimensional workshops designed to provide the knowledge, skills and tools to successfully implement and/or support the CATCH Program. A CATCH Training penetrates much deeper than imparting the intricate and specialized knowledge of the program. They are designed to identify specific campus needs, and facilitate practical solutions toward guiding school communities in their efforts to help children be healthy for a lifetime.1

After the intense but fun full day of CATCH training, KMES staff began implementing the CATCH program. First on the agenda was to form a CATCH committee, a must have if the program is to be implemented correctly and efficiently. This committee is chaired by the KMES school nurse. The committee consists of community members, parents, teachers and other school staff. The CATCH committee meets regularly to schedule CATCH events, such as Family Fun Nights, and to come up with CATCH ideas, such as CATCH tip of the day, family newsletters, display items, etc. It has taken a team effort in creating a positive atmosphere to promote a healthy lifestyle. CATCH works if everyone makes a determined effort to make it work. This includes teachers, administrators, school nutrition staff, community partners, parents and students alike.

The school nurse stated, that” Kelly Miller Elementary is really excited about implementing CATCH activities. Teachers help children learn about the differences between”GO”,”SLOW” and “WHOA” foods. Teachers and staff drive home the messages during classroom discussions about eating healthy foods and the importance of exercise. Teachers and staff at Kelly Miller not only emphasize the importance of exercise but they try to show children that exercising can be fun! Together parents, teachers, and community leaders can help to enforce the CATCH program and create positive outcomes and promote healthy lifestyle choices.”

All schools are very focused on curriculum and academic achievements, and they should be. But with the prominence on testing, health and wellness programs have taken more of a back seat in the learning process. There is little time in the school day to have children active and learning about healthy living. Federal Wellness policies and the SC Student Health and Fitness Act are attempting to change this. But still, finding leaders within the schools that were interested in advocating for physical activity and nutrition programs like CATCH took some time. There were also many staff changes, but based on the short-term positive outcomes observed in the first few months of implementation, KMES has made a strong commitment to continue the CATCH program.

The key to the success of CATCH is to find the right people within the community and schools that care about children’s health and have a strong belief in using evidenced based programs like CATCH that promote healthy living. These people understand and know that a healthy and active child will do better in school. Taking this collaborative and committed approach to the planning and implementation of CATCH worked at KMES. Because of this commitment, the Fairfield School District and the FCCC Nutrition Committee, backed by the support and funding of SCICORD, plan to implement CATCH in all the district’s elementary schools in the 2009-2010 school year.

Funding from SCICORD will allow for CATCH to be evaluated by the School of Medicine, University of South Carolina. In efforts to show the Fairfield School District as well as other districts around the state that CATCH can and does work, BMI data and attitude and behavior questionnaires from KMES students have been collected and are undergoing evaluation at this time.