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July 28, 2016
“Despite the many convincing arguments and global calls for action to reverse the physical inactivity pandemic, practitioners and policy makers have restricted access to knowledge about existing physical activity programmes that can be effectively implemented at scale.”


UK medical journal The Lancet published a story this week on the importance of scaling up physical activity interventions worldwide. The four aims of the study are as follows.

(1) to summarise the available peer-reviewed, scientific evidence on scaling up physical activity interventions; (2) to integrate the knowledge and experience of senior researchers and key stakeholders on the factors influencing the scalability of physical activity interventions in HICs and LMICs; (3) to identify case studies of scaled-up physical activity interventions from around the world; and (4) to develop a framework to guide researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and civil society in selecting, implementing, and assessing scaled up physical activity interventions.

CATCH is one of the few programs named in the study as currently effectively researching, implementing, and evaluating a larger scale physical activity program:

A good example of a study that documents all these steps is the Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH; panel 1), which followed a clear linear progression from a controlled efficacy trial, to researcher-led dissemination reports, to showing effectiveness in researcher-led translation trials, to achieving institutionalisation in more than half of Texas schools plus several other areas of the USA. Despite its success, the case of CATCH also serves to highlight how long it takes for knowledge to become available to the population at large through real-world programmes—over 20 years have elapsed since the first efficacy trial of CATCH.

CATCH is proud to be included in this study, and moreover proud to already be taking the steps the researchers find most important in creating long-term, sustainable programming. In their introduction, the researchers suggest one of the primary problems facing evidence-based physical activity programs is their inability to leave the realm of research and academia.

A few efforts to bring these findings into real-world programmes have been made. In fact, the scientific literature contains abundant examples of researcher-led translation and dissemination trials, implementing evidence-based physical activity interventions in a variety of real-world settings. Unfortunately, these initial translation attempts have usually not thrived in the real world (ie, in becoming embedded in a system) once the research funds for translation have expired.

The CATCH Global Foundation was founded for this very purpose: to bring together actual community members with researchers, and to find ongoing funding to keep the CATCH program alive. Currently, CATCH is growing rapidly, having spread into 33 states and utilizing the support of CATCH Global Foundation’s Founding Partners to spread our message of health nationwide, and particularly to communities in need.

CATCH’s communities are truly the backbone of what keeps this program going. We strongly feel that our “Train the Trainer” model, whereby a member of a school or community is given the tools and empowerment to keep CATCH running by training new teachers every year, CATCH achieves a sustainability few programs are able to achieve. Our Champions form a nationwide network of people working to keep kids active.

For more information on the article and UTHealth’s involvement, please visit their blog here!