One More Step to Combating Childhood Obesity
Healthy lifestyles are created through actions that force behavioral and environmental changes. Such monumental transformation can only occur through a series of incremental small steps.
It is widely known that childhood obesity rates have been climbing at an alarming rate over the last 20 years and giving rise to Type 2 diabetes among children nationwide. Originating in the late 1980s, the CATCH Program (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) promotes physical activity and healthy food choices. For 20 years CATCH has guided schools, families and children in the process of being healthy, and has demonstrated that behaviors such as unhealthy eating and physical inactivity can be changed.
The foundation’s commitment to supporting programs designed to create healthy environments, and increase healthy eating and physical activity made CATCH a logical partner. A series of grants provided the resources to further integrate and enhance the content, scope and sequence, and presentation of the CATCH Program; to allow for additional strategies like social marketing to be developed; to refine training approaches; and to provide a process and impact evaluation of the program in its entirety.
With CATCH, parents and educators were made aware of the connection between health and student academic performance. Policies were implemented at the district and campus level; school teachers and staff were engaged as advocates for healthy living and practitioners of healthier habits; and healthy changes were fostered within school environments. Yet, even as the partnership with CATCH matured, evidence surfaced that factors causing dramatic increases in childhood obesity in Texas were rooted in places extending far beyond schoolyards.
Play Different Roles with Partners to Effect Social Progress
CATCH is doing amazing work in schools. As we listened to students and families, we found ourselves asking how we could accelerate this progress by moving beyond the schoolyard. What if the foundation took another step as a catalyst—armed with data documenting the impact of the work—to foster the adoption and scale of useful services and programs for families? What about one step forward to help connect and navigate partnerships with proven programs? It was clear that more than one partnership, more than one step, was required to lower the prevalence of overweight and obese children using environmental and policy change interventions to develop cost effective, sustainable, and scalable solutions.
We took what we had learned in CATCH and other programs, and we began to pilot a community-based initiative in one particular zip code. The goal was to harness the benefits and value of each of the programs in a way that accelerated the overall impact. We are still early in that journey, but we are energized by the prospect of what can be accomplished by combining the collective force of multiple, successful programs.
Advice: Take Many Steps to Solve Problems Threatening Humanity
Sometimes, many small steps must be simultaneously coordinated to make a giant leap forward. One program, one investment or one collaboration can achieve an impressive specific goal. Those smaller steps, however, often won’t solve the underlying problems that cause complex and far-reaching challenges which, like childhood obesity, threaten our children. If we can be flexible and creative in how we structure our role with partners, we open up an opportunity to further our impact. We’ve learned to keep moving forward and fail to be satisfied with incremental progress. If a certain action has not moved you to a place of true progress, take the risk of trying a new angle or direction to keep reaching for the bigger goal.
Catalyze, connect, partner, navigate, disrupt, be relentless and patient, and have the courage to pursue progress by taking not a step, but a leap.