Get fit with the Grizzlies: A community-school-home initiative to fight childhood obesity led by a professional sports organization


Background: Professional sports organizations in the United States have notable celebrity status, and several teams have used this "star power" to collaborate with local schools toward the goal of affecting childhood obesity (e.g., NFL Play 60). Program effectiveness is unknown owing to the absence of comprehensive evaluations for any of these initiatives. In 2006, the Memphis Grizzlies, the city's National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise, launched "Get Fit with the Grizzlies," a 6-week, curricular addition focusing on nutrition and physical activity for the 4th and 5th grades in Memphis City Schools. The health-infused mini-unit was delivered by the physical education teachers during their classes. National and local sponsors whose business objectives matched the "Get Fit" objectives were solicited to fund the program. Here we highlight the program evaluation results from the first year of "Get Fit" and the Journal of School Health article. However, the "Get Fit" program has now taken place in Memphis area schools for 5 years. During the 2010-11 school-year, "Get Fit" evolved into a new program called "Healthy Home Court" with Kellogg's as the primary sponsor. "Healthy Home Court" included the original fitness part of the program and added a breakfast component at high schools where data indicated great need. Kellogg's sponsored special "carts" with healthy breakfast options (i.e., fruit, protein bars) for students to grab and eat. This program matched their existing program "Food Away from Home." Research supports the objectives of these programs and has shown that breakfast consumption can have a positive impact on academic achievement, behavior in school, and overall health status. Method: Survey research employed over the first 4 years measured health knowledge acquisition and health behavior change using a matched pre/post test design (n=2210) in randomly chosen schools (n=18) from all elementary schools in the Memphis area. McNemar's test for significance (p<.05) was applied to measure correct answers pre and post. Also, breakfast attendance numbers were observed for intervention high schools and compared with breakfast attendance numbers from control high schools. Results: Analyses confirmed that, from the first year through this past one (2010-11), there was significant health knowledge acquisition and health behavior improvement at post-intervention. Breakfast numbers matched these findings. Also, exit polling that took place at one intervention high school indicated the students attending the breakfast assembly gained knowledge and positively changed attitudes regarding the academic and health benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. Conclusions: This community-school-home initiative using a professional team's celebrity platform is largely overlooked by school districts and should be considered as an effective way to confront childhood obesity. © 2012 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Studies in Health Technology and Informatics