Additional $3.2 million grant from WellPoint Foundation will expand intergenerational program fighting obesity
Results show program improving health of youth and adult volunteers
Nearly 6,200 children and more than 900 adults, age 50-plus in 18 cities across 14 states are winning in the battle against obesity, thanks to CATCH Healthy Habits, a unique intergenerational program that encourages healthy eating and active living.
The program officially launched in 2011 when the WellPoint Foundation funded a $2.7 million, two-year grant to the OASIS Institute (OASIS). During the grant period, the program was expanded to 14 states and reached 142 percent of its original target of participation (7,100 children and older adults versus 5,000 originally estimated).
Today, WellPoint Foundation renewed its commitment with an additional grant of $3.2 million for 2013 and 2014, to strengthen and expand the program, bringing it to a total of more than 150 locations in 19 cities across 15 states with the addition of sites in Tucson Ariz. and Sacramento, Calif.
Obesity-related expenses and complications are among the nation’s most pressing public health challenges. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 35 percent of people age 50 and older lead sedentary lifestyles, and obesity rates in the United States have more than tripled in the last three decades among children age 6-11.
In the CATCH Healthy Habits program, teams of volunteers age 50-plus work with children in kindergarten through the fifth grade in weekly one-hour sessions after school and during the summer. They play active games, learn about food choices and make healthy snacks. (VIDEO about CATCH Healthy Habits)
“Living a healthy life is as simple to describe as it is difficult to practice,” said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the WellPoint Foundation. “Eat right. Get enough exercise. Practice moderation. Starting and practicing these habits – whether you are young or old – are some of the most important actions you can take to live your best life possible. That’s why we’re excited to continue our support of the CATCH Healthy Habits program.”
In 2013-2014, OASIS will continue working with its primary partner, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, along with YMCAs, schools and other community partners to serve 8,500 children and adults in 150 locations in all 19 cities where CATCH Healthy Habits will operate.
“CATCH Healthy Habits helps combat the serious issue of obesity for two generations, and benefits the adults who volunteer in other ways as well,” said Marcia Kerz, president of the OASIS Institute. “Research shows that adults who volunteer in any way live longer, healthier lives than those who do not volunteer. We feel that CATCH Healthy Habits is a successful national model for improving the lives of both children and adults age 50-plus who benefit from the program.”
The WellPoint Foundation has been instrumental in supporting OASIS’ efforts to develop CATCH Healthy Habits (originally known as Active Generations) since 2008. In the original pilot, more than 200 volunteers and 1,000 children in grades three to five participated in programs in California, Missouri, New York, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
At the core of the program is the Coordinated Approach to Child Health, or CATCH, an evidence-based, nationally-recognized curriculum created by research teams from the University of California at San Diego, University of Minnesota, Tulane University and the University of Texas. CATCH measures outcomes for children, such as how the program improves their understanding of healthy food choices and physical activity. The curriculum was adapted for OASIS so that older adults could serve as volunteer mentors to deliver the program.
Evaluation results from 2011 and 2012 show that CATCH Healthy Habits is working, with improvements in physical activity and nutrition demonstrated by both the adult volunteer-facilitators and child participants.
By the end of the first grant period in 2012, 88 percent, or 801 adults age 50-plus, met the CDC recommendations for moderate-to- vigorous physical activity at the end of the grant, surpassing the initiative’s target of 67 percent.
Survey results also indicate that adults involved in the program are also making positive dietary changes. The percentage of adults who reported reading nutrition labels increased by 10 percent (from baseline); eating three or more vegetables per day increased by 8 percent; and two or more fruits a day by 4 percent.
“This program has proven to be a model for how we can leverage the talents and energies of older Americans nationwide to combat obesity, and we can’t wait to bring it to more cities,” Chrisman said.
Children in CATCH Healthy Habits programming similarly exceeded physical activity intensity standards set for professionally-led physical education classes by 12 percent (62 percent observed compared to 50 percent standard). The students’ reading of nutrition labels also increased by 10 percent (from baseline) and the number of days eating high-fat foods decreased by nine percent.
“The CATCH program teaches kids and adults that you can do something about your health if you have a plan and stay committed to it,” says Lois Sanabria, a CATCH Healthy Habits volunteer in the Bronx, N.Y. “If you show a person how to do something, they’re more inclined to get it.”
Like Lois, a vast majority of program participants report enjoying the program (83 percent of kids and 97 percent of adults), with over 90 percent of adult volunteers staying committed to the program. To date, adults have contributed more than 26,500 volunteer hours valued at more than $484,000.
CATCH Healthy Habits has received national and local recognition as a unique program of excellence that impacts child and adult health, and in 2012 was named a Program of Distinction by Generations United, a national organization focused on promoting life-improving intergenerational programs and policies.
Adults interested in volunteering in the CATCH Healthy Habits program should contact OASIS at (314) 862-2933, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.oasisnet.org.
About the WellPoint Foundation
The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s annual associate giving campaign and provides a 50 percent match of associates’ campaign pledges. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit www.wellpointfoundation.org.
About the OASIS Institute
OASIS is a national non-profit organization that promotes successful aging through lifelong learning, health programs and volunteer engagement. The OASIS vision is to see that adults age 50-plus across the country have opportunities to pursue vibrant, healthy, productive and meaningful lives. Founded in 1982, OASIS has a national membership of more than 360,000 adults and serves 59,000 people annually through partnerships in 43 cities. The OASIS Institute, nationally headquartered in St. Louis, MO, is a member of the Social Impact (S&I) 100 Index of top-performing non-profits. For more information, visit www.oasisnet.org