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UT School of Public Health Program to Prevent Childhood Obesity Expands to Central Texas Middle Schools

- The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation awards grant totaling more than $3 million to fund expansion of proven school health program -

AUSTIN, Texas, March 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, part of The University of Texas School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus, is pleased to announce the expansion of the Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH) program to Travis County and Central Texas middle schools.

The CATCH Middle School program is made possible thanks to a four-year, $3.1 million grant provided by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which builds upon the foundation's previous grants to fund the original CATCH Elementary School program in Travis County.

"After seeing data that clearly demonstrate the positive impact the CATCH program is having on Texas elementary students, we were thrilled to award a grant that will allow the program to expand into middle schools," said Dr. Aliya Hussaini, grant officer at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. "We know that obese children are at greater risk of developing long term chronic health problems, and through programs like CATCH, which has proven effective and sustainable, we can continue to educate students about the importance of establishing healthy habits they will carry into adulthood."

The middle school coordinated health program will focus on educating students about the importance of physical activity and healthy eating and their impact on academic performance. The overarching goal of this effort is to decrease the prevalence of obese eighth graders in the Central Texas area from a baseline of 17 percent obese to 11 percent obese after 3.5 years of the program. More than 32,000 students across 33 middle schools in five school districts in Central Texas will be reached by this effort. Districts planning to implement the program include Austin, Del Valle, Manor, Pflugerville and Round Rock.

"We've been extremely pleased thus far with the results of the CATCH program in elementary schools in my district," said Pascal D. Forgione, Jr., Ph.D., superintendent of Austin ISD. "While the data proves the program is successful, the real reward is seeing the students enjoy learning about how to live a healthy life. We realize that many of our students don't learn about nutrition and physical activity at home, so through programs like CATCH they're taught lessons that are of equal importance to any academic class."

The CATCH program, which began as a successful research study, was implemented in Travis County elementary schools in 2006 to help combat the childhood obesity epidemic plaguing Texas. Its success lies in its coordinated, holistic approach to instilling healthy habits, reaching children through health education curriculum, school food service, school physical activity programs and by engaging families and community members. Results of a recent study of CATCH elementary students in El Paso, Texas showed that the program successfully reversed the increase of obesity among a controlled group of school children.

Beginning in the fall of 2009, three evidence-based programs under the umbrella of the CATCH Middle School program will be introduced in select Texas middle schools. These programs include IMPACT, Heads Up!, and PASS and CATCH. IMPACT is a physical education, parent and child nutrition services program, Heads Up! is a basic science-education program that instructs students by using physical activity and nutrition examples, and lastly, PASS and CATCH is a program designed to improve concentration through teacher-led short movement breaks taken during class. Additionally, social marketing techniques that promote physical activity and healthy eating will be incorporated into school clubs and publications.

"The most exciting part of the new CATCH Middle School program is that we can continue to teach, encourage and reinforce lessons that were learned by children who were part of the elementary program. Based on the success of the program in elementary schools, and solid results of IMPACT, Heads Up!, and PASS and CATCH, we believe the expansion into middle schools will be at least as successful if not more so," said Steven H. Kelder, Ph.D., principal investigator of the CATCH Middle School program, co-director of The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, and professor of epidemiology at The UT School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus. "We are extremely appreciative that the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation continues to provide funds that allow the CATCH program to enter schools and create environments that foster and promote physical activity and healthy habits," he said.

For more information about the CATCH Middle School program, please visit

About the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation ( is dedicated to improving the lives of children living in urban poverty around the world. With offices in Austin, TX and New Delhi, India, the Dell family foundation funds programs that foster high-quality public education and childhood health, and improve the economic stability of families living in poverty. The foundation has committed more than $530 million to global children's issues and community initiatives to date.

About The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living

The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living ( was founded in 2006 with a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to The University of Texas School of Public Health. The Center was established to conduct research to better understand and influence behaviors and environmental conditions that affect healthy living, with a vision of 'healthy children in a healthy world.' The Center is housed in the newly created University of Texas School of Public Health, Austin Regional Campus, in Austin, TX.

    For further information, please contact:
    Lindsey Elbom
    Weber Shandwick

SOURCE Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
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