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CATCH-UP (Coordinated Approach to Child Health in the Upper Peninsula)

  • Need: To reduce childhood obesity and risk for chronic illness for youth aged 5-12 in the rural Western Upper Peninsula region of Michigan.
  • Intervention: Integrated the evidence-based CATCH program to increase physical activity and healthy eating habits in children.
  • Results: Created a healthy school environment in 12 districts promoting daily physical activity, good nutritional choices, and supportive communities for more than 3,000 children.


CATCH-UP logo In low income rural communities of the Western Upper Peninsula in Michigan, school districts lack facilities, equipment, training, policies, and environments to support child health and wellness. Even at the elementary school level, many students failed to receive the daily recommended physical activity. School systems in the area struggled with compliance for new federal school dietary guidelines.

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD), along with the Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Child Development Board and 12 school districts, adopted the nationally recognized CATCH Model (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) to address the problem of childhood obesity in rural Michigan.

WUPHD provided CATCH materials and training to schools. Health educators visited each site on a regular basis to demonstrate CATCH activities in classrooms and to facilitate school health committees. More than 100 teachers and afterschool and summer workers, many without previous physical education and health instruction experience, received training over the three-year grant period. Teachers were given easy-to-use lesson plans and equipment to incorporate health and wellness into the daily classroom routine.

In addition to applying CATCH, WUPHD implemented another nationally recognized model, Safe Routes to School, to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. These safe route projects were incorporated into city and township master plans. Committees of administration, teachers, upper-grade students, parents, and community members furthered the Safe Routes to School model as a way to build support for policy, systems, and environmental changes within the community.

The video below discusses the need for CATCH programs in school systems as well as the impact CATCH has made in schools around the country.

This program received support from a 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant.

Services offered

  • Equipment packs with flags, balls, hoops and other objects used in CATCH physical activity games during activity periods
  • Game content include health and nutrition concepts
  • Staff training:
    • Yearly training by national CATCH trainer
    • Supplemental staff training and demos throughout the year
  • Safe Routes to School surveys and walking/biking audits
WUPHD Health Educator Arnie Kinnunen talks to students at Calumet Elementary School about bike safety.
WUPHD Health Educator Arnie Kinnunen talks to students at Calumet Elementary School about bike safety.

Other CATCH-UP related projects included:

  • Walk and Roll to School Day
  • Safe Routes to School planning
  • Kids Summer Mountain Biking camps
  • Triathlon with 200 children in summer programs participating
  • Farm-to-school program
Walk and Roll to School Day, May 2015
The bike racks were overflowing on Walk and Roll to School Day, May 2015, at Calumet Elementary School, in Michigan's northernmost K-12 school district.


Every Day Healthy, One Day Local farm-to-table program
In the Adams Township Schools, a new farm-to-table program called Every Day Healthy, One Day Local was instituted in fall 2014 after planning led by the health department, with lunches cooked from scratch featuring fruits, vegetables, and even meat and dairy products from local farms.

Overall, the Michigan CATCH-UP program served 3,550 children, aged 5-12, by the 2014-15 school year. The project served 12 elementary schools and nine after-school/summer sites in total. Early indicators of success included improved attitudes and behaviors around physical activity and nutrition.

The epidemic of childhood obesity is complex, with multiple factors, and was 30 years in the making. Therefore, reducing community rates of childhood overweight and obesity will also take time. However, the CATCH-UP program did demonstrate the following results that can be considered intermediate steps toward the long-term goal of reducing obesity and chronic disease in the population:

  • Improvements in nutrition and exercise knowledge, attitudes, and behavior measured on pre- and post-test surveys of students grades 3-5
  • Mild increase of fruit and vegetable intake observed
  • Increased student-days for walking and biking to school at most participating sites


  • Implementing one program for 12 independent, distinctive school districts was difficult. In addition to each district having a separate school board, administration and staffing plan, each district also had a unique operating plan.
  • CATCH activities using items like hoops and balls were sometimes hard to utilize in cluttered classrooms.
  • Program implementation and fidelity varied by school and even by classroom and teacher.
  • School health and wellness committees that oversee policy, system, and environmental (PSE) changes were given evidence that the program could be sustainable and worth initial investment.

Contact Information

Ray Sharp, Manager, Community Health Promotion Division
Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD)
906.482.7382 Ext. 163

Children and youth
Food security and nutrition
Obesity and weight control
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention

States served

Date added
October 15, 2015

Date updated or reviewed
November 1, 2018

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2018. CATCH-UP (Coordinated Approach to Child Health in the Upper Peninsula) [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 20 October 2020]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.