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What Is Whole Child Wellness?
After 30 years of continuous research and dissemination efforts, more than 15,000 educational sites now utilize one or more of CATCH’s evidence-based Whole Child wellness programs, reaching 3 million+ PreK-12 students annually.

CATCH offers health and wellness programs and training for: Nutrition Education; Physical Activity & Physical Education; Vaping Prevention (CATCH My Breath); Social & Emotional Learning (SEL); and Whole Child wellness policy, systems, and environment (PSE).

Our Whole Child wellness programs are backed by over 120 peer-reviewed scientific articles, giving CATCH the most scientific evidence of effectiveness. Read on to learn about the Whole Child approach and how an investment in student wellness is an investment in academic success.

What is the “Whole Child” approach to education?

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) defines Whole Child as, “an approach to education defined by policies, practices, and relationships that ensure each child, in each school, in each community, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.” These same principles are central to the CDC’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model (pictured).

“Whole Child wellness represents a common cause between educators and public health professionals—a shared paradigm embracing the vision that health education not only improves health; it improves education.”
When Are We Going to Teach Health? (Van Dusen, 2020)

Why Are Schools Choosing the “Whole Child” Approach?

The desire to expand the educational experience “beyond the test” is not simply an emotional sentiment; it is a strategic move to strengthen overall academic performance and set kids on the path to a successful life. Healthy students are:

  • Absent less often,
  • More attentive in class,
  • Have fewer behavioral issues, and
  • Score better on standardized tests.

How does CATCH support the Whole Child approach?

CATCH provides campuses and school districts with training and materials to guide effective policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change to support student, staff, and family wellness. Some of the nation’s largest districts use CATCH as either a platform for their Whole Child strategy or a component of their overall wellness efforts.


The Whole Child CATCH Coordination Kit provides step-by-step guidance for K-8 schools to bring together the many stakeholders of a campus—teachers, administrators, nutrition services, support staff, and parents—to institutionalize health and wellness as part of the overall environment and culture. By coordinating wellness activities and messages across the campus, students gain the knowledge, skills, and social reinforcement that helps them establish healthy habits for a lifetime.

CATCH’s many evidence-based health education programs may also be implemented to complement existing wellness efforts or strategies. CATCH offers programs for K-8 Health & Nutrition Education, K-8 Physical Education, and Vaping Prevention for grades 5-12 (CATCH My Breath). There are also nutrition and physical activity/education programs for Early Childhood and Out-of-School-Time settings.

How does CATCH integrate with Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

SEL is more than just a program or lesson. It’s about how teaching and learning happens, as well as what you teach and where you learn. Within our CATCH PE Activity Packs for example, we highlight how specific games and lessons can be used to address behaviors listed under the five SEL core competencies defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

The Activity Packs also include the CATCH PE Approach to SEL Guidebook that gives PE teachers the building blocks for structuring classes to practice, promote, and reinforce the SEL competencies.


Whole Child Leadership Training

This training is designed for individuals or teams charged with leading a whole child initiative to develop and sustain a culture of health at their elementary or middle school. As we reimagine what schools will look like now, creating a culture that teaches, incorporates and reinforces healthy behaviors will be a top priority.

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