Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Pilot-Testing CATCH Early Childhood: A Preschool-Based Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity Program

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Pilot-Testing CATCH Early Childhood: A Preschool-Based Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity Program

Article excerpt


Background: The literature on theoretically-based programs targeting healthy nutrition and physical activity in preschools is scarce. Purpose: To pilot test CATCH Early Childhood (CEC), a preschool-based nutrition and physical activity program among children ages three to five in Head Start. Methods: The study was conducted in two Head Start centers (N=75 children, their parents; 9 teachers). CEC was implemented by trained teachers over six weeks in fall 2008. Qualitative data on feasibility and acceptability was collected using post-intervention parent and teacher focus groups and lesson plan evaluation forms. Pre-to-post intervention changes in children's fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity at school were evaluated. Results: Results showed good feasibility and acceptability for the classroom curriculum, activity box and parent tip-sheets. There was a trend towards an increase in children's fruit, 100% fruit juice and vegetable intake and mean minutes of physical activity at school pre-to-post intervention. However, this increase was not significant. Discussion: The CEC program showed good feasibility and acceptability in the study population. Further evaluation of behavioral outcomes using a larger sample and a prospective design is needed. Translation to Health Education Practice: These results provide information important for developing and implementing evidence-based programs in preschools.

Sharma S, Chuang R-J, Hedberg AM. Pilot-testing CATCH early childhood: a preschool-based healthy nutrition and physical activity program. Am J Health Educ. 2011;42(1):12-23. This paper was submitted to the Journal on April 9, 2010, revised and accepted for publication on October 9, 2010.


The prevalence of overweight and obesity among young children aged 2-5 in the United States is 24.4%. (1,2) The rates are disproportionately higher for minority children with 24.8% of African American and 29.9% of Hispanic children categorized as overweight or obese. From a lifetime physical development perspective, early childhood experiences can set an important life trajectory with regard to ideal weight status. Adiposity or body fatness typically increases in the first year of life and then decreases. A renewed rise is then seen again at 5.5 to 6 years of age. This increase is termed as adipose tissue rebound. Adipose tissue is the part of the body where fat is stored. Children, who experience early adipose tissue rebound or a second rise in body mass index (BMI), are at high risk for later obesity. (3) Because current BMI status is strongly predictive of future obesity, (4) intervening at a young age is important in curbing the epidemic.

Obesity is a consequence of individual factors as well as social, cultural and environmental factors surrounding an individuals Modifiable behavioral determinants of obesity include diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviors. (6) These behaviors develop in childhood, making it a critical time to establish healthy behaviors. (7)

Approximately 13 million of 21 million preschool-age children in the U.S. spend a large amount of their day in child care. (8) Thus, preschools may be an optimal setting for implementing interventions targeting obesity-prevention behaviors such as healthy nutrition and physical activity to reach large numbers of children, their parents and teachers. Currently there are few guidelines for nutrition and physical activity in preschools

and those that do exist vary considerably by state. (9) Literature on interventions aimed to promote healthy dietary and physical activity behaviors in preschool-age children is limited. Several interventions in preschool-age children have been implemented, (8, 10-16) but only a few conducted have targeted nutrition and physical activity for obesity prevention using preschools. (14, 15) Evidence-based programs in preschool settings are needed to guide policies and practices for nutrition and physical activity. …

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