SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As part of a concerted effort to address the obesity epidemic among children, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a new initiative designed to help promote healthy eating and physical activity in elementary schools.
The program, called CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health), is to start in six schools, expand to 15 other schools later this spring and, potentially, to schools throughout the state.
“Childhood obesity is the fastest growing disease in America and the most common health problem facing children today,” Blagojevich said. “The consequences of poor eating habits and inactive lifestyles are troubling. There are three times as many children overweight today than there were 20 years ago, type 2 diabetes has increased 700 percent and some experts are saying this could be the first generation of kids to lead shorter lives than their parents.”
A study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 6.1 percent of Illinois adults are obese, compared with 5.7 percent nationwide, and obesity-attributable medical expenditures in the state are estimated at $3.4 billion, including $1 billion financed by Medicaid.
The Governor has said he wants to begin addressing the issues that contribute to obesity at an early age through programs like CATCH. CATCH is a multi-component health intervention program, which builds 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. It is targeted at students in third- through fifth-grade.
The components of the CATCH program include classroom curriculum, food service modifications, physical education improvements and family reinforcement to reduce cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes risk factors in youth.
In last week’s State of the State address, the Governor proposed several other initiatives to help children eat better, exercise more, become better students and live healthier and longer lives.
“Children need to be active,” Blagojevich said. “That means running and jumping and skipping, and not just fast forwarding through television programs, downloading on their computers and instant messaging.”
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, is encouraged by the interest of the Governor and other legislative leaders to take action that is designed to improve children’s health through better nutrition and exercise.
“It seems like every day we learn more and more about the adverse effects of junk food and lack of exercise on our children,” Dr. Whitaker said. “In order to reverse this trend, we need the commitment of parents, educators, health providers, government leaders and others. We owe it to our kids to do everything possible to address this epidemic, which can lead to a lifetime of health problems.”
Each school selected to participate in CATCH will receive about $6,000 in federal funds from the Illinois Department of Public Health to complete a health assessment of their students using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Index, implement the program curriculum and do an evaluation of the program during the 2004-2005 school year.
Teachers and staff from the initial six schools were recently trained and are set to begin the school assessment in preparation for launching the program in the fall. Illinois Department of Public Health nutrition and health promotion experts will provide technical assistance to the schools throughout the year to assure program compliance and implementation.
The following schools have been chosen to participate:
· Tri-C Elementary School, Carterville
· Glendale School, East Peoria
· Washington Elementary School, Waukegan
· Sihler School/Litchfield Pre-K, Litchfield
· Melody Elementary School, Chicago
· Paul Bolin School, East Peoria
An additional 15 schools will be recruited in the spring.
Schools were selected based on several key factors: current cardiovascular health, obesity, diabetes and environmental program efforts within the community; previous program implementation through the Illinois Health and Wellness Initiatives Grants; an expressed interest in the CATCH program; and geographical distribution throughout the state.
CATCH is the largest school-based health promotion study ever undertaken in the United States and has demonstrated improved, measurable health outcomes in the areas of physical activity, nutrition and Body Mass Index (BMI). The original study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, took place with more than 5,000 students in 96 ethnically and racially diverse elementary schools.
The program has been successful in other states, especially in Texas where the curriculum is mandatory in public schools.