When Dr. Steven Kelder, MPH, joined the UTHealth School of Public Health CATCH research team as a graduate student in 1987, he admits he couldn’t have foreseen the ways in which the CATCH school health programs - founded within UTHealth and initially designed to improve cardiovascular health by teaching kids about nutrition and exercise - would grow.
Today, CATCH programs reach more than 3 million youth in over 15,000 schools and afterschool sites across the US, providing educators with a wide approach to Whole Child health and covering topics like nutrition, physical activity, vaping prevention, sun safety and, now, oral health and Social & Emotional Learning (SEL).
While most CATCH programs are researched and developed at the University of Texas, Dr. Kelder and fellow UTHealth alum Duncan Van Dusen, MPH, teamed up to start CATCH Global Foundation (CGF) in 2014, a nonprofit with the mission of both sustaining and disseminating CATCH to schools across the country and the globe.
This summer, CGF expanded on its commitment to Whole Child health by adding SEL Journeys, a movement-based program utilizing dance and cultural awareness to reinforce SEL concepts and the mind, body, heart connection.
And this fall, CGF and UTHealth (with support from a national sponsor), will launch CATCH Healthy Smiles, an oral health program for students in grades K-2, led by investigators Dr. Kelder and Shreela Sharma, PhD, RD, LD.
In addition, CATCH continues to make strides on its global mission, with users of its online platform from more than 15 countries and plans to implement school-based health programs in Kenya, Colombia, and Turkey.
But despite all of the innovative ways CATCH has expanded on its initial mandate, the core nutrition and physical activity programs developed by UTHealth researchers more than 33 years ago continue to be in high demand on school campuses across the country. Through a partnership with the Michigan Health Endowment Foundation, CATCH will provide teacher training, health and nutrition curriculum, and technical assistance with campus wellness coordination to 250 schools across Michigan over the next two years, reaching over 100,000 kids.
CGF’s stewardship and continued partnership with researchers at UTHealth has allowed the foundation to grow in new and unexpected ways and to continue to serve youth from every background across the US with resources that help them live healthy and empowered lives.
To learn more about CGF’s work in child health, visit www.catch.org