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Prev Med. 2004 May;38(5):594-606.

School-based health education programs can be maintained over time: results from the CATCH Institutionalization study.

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  • 1Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, The University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Developing and evaluating interventions to influence students' opportunities for healthful choices has been a focus of school-based health promotion research; however, few studies have examined the sustainability of these programs and viability of continued organizational implementation.


The purpose of this study was to determine the maintenance of Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health (CATCH) school-level changes in former intervention (n = 56) and former comparison (n = 20) schools 5 years post-intervention. Twelve schools unexposed to CATCH were measured as controls. Macronutrient content of 5 days of school lunch menus, amount and type of physical education (PE) classes, and health instruction practices in the classroom were assessed. An institutionalization score for schools was developed, using program maintenance variables: % kcal from fat and saturated fat in school lunches, % PE class spent in vigorous and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and class time devoted to CATCH topics.


Menus from 50% of former intervention cafeterias met the Eat Smart guidelines for fat, compared to 10% of former control cafeterias and 17% of unexposed school cafeterias (P < 0.005). There were no significant differences in implementation of CATCH PE goals between conditions. Although the total time spent teaching CATCH was low in former CATCH schools, the former intervention schools spent significantly more time teaching CATCH and taught more lessons as compared to former comparison schools. Former intervention schools had a higher mean institutionalization score than former comparison schools (P < 0.001). Training had the greatest impact on maintenance of CATCH.


Results from this study suggest that changes in the school environment to support healthful behaviors can be maintained over time. Staff training is an important factor in achieving institutionalization of these programs.

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