Facility Profile - April 2009
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Catching Kids Getting Healthy

Catch Kids Club at Keene Recreation Center in Keene, N.H.

By Dawn Klingensmith

"The Keene initiative started focused and small, and they have continued to train, strengthen and grow their CATCH Kids Club initiative throughout the years," said Kathy Chichester, national CATCH coordinator. "Keene is truly a model program for CATCH. Their initiative is one of community agency collaboration. … I am often asked, 'What agencies should be involved in child health, and what roles can each of us play to support programs like CATCH?' When I consider the role of parks and recreation, and the role they can make to the process of promoting children's health, my thought is always, 'Let me introduce you to the folks from Keene.'"

Keene's is a "model program" even considering—indeed, especially considering—its humble beginnings in 2004. Keene's CKC initiative has come a long way from those first steps. However, cost-effectiveness and simplicity are still major hallmarks. No fancy equipment or facilities are needed. The children exercise in a multipurpose room. The program is facilitated by five part-time college students who will eventually enter the education or recreation fields and who rely on the same basic instructional materials.

Keene's CKC program is part of a communitywide effort initiated by Advocates for Healthy Youth, whose mission is to improve health among elementary school children and, by extension, their parents. For its part, the recreation department implemented the program with funding provided by Foundation for Healthy Communities, which works with hospitals and other like-minded organizations to improve health in New Hampshire. Now, a user fee of $165 per child—which covers the entire school year for about a dollar a day—pays for the programming. Forty children are currently enrolled. A summertime version of the program, which takes place at city playgrounds, reaches an additional 150.

The way the program works now, children arrive at the recreation center after school, eat their snacks and work on homework until 4 p.m., when they migrate to the multipurpose room for 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Within this relatively informal framework, staff members and children discuss healthy dietary choices as part of an ongoing conversation.

Bohannon said there's ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that "the messages being conveyed are brought home by the children and implemented in that setting, as well." He added, "I have parents come up to me and say, 'Thank you. My daughter used to eat potato chips every afternoon, and now she wants nothing to do with them.'"