The Cornell Healthy After-School Environment (CHASE) Self-Assessment Tool: Encouraging Supportive Food and Activity Environments

Healthy Food Choices in Schools September 18, 2017 Print Friendly and PDF

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Developed by Wendy Wolfe, Cornell University, Division of Nutritional Sciences, and Sally Crosiar, healthypeoplelearn.com, the Cornell Healthy After-School Environment (CHASE) self-assessment tool is designed to help after-school staff examine their current support of healthy eating and active play in their programs and ways to improve that support.

The overarching goal of the tool is to shift focus from individual behaviors to the ways our environments impact health and show how small environmental changes may help children in after-school programs be healthier. While some staff try to incorporate healthful food and physical activity into their programs, how to best do so is often confusing, and other aspects of the after-school environment are often not considered.

CHASE is comprised of 7 sections of questions, on the topics listed below, and is designed to help users think about their after-school food and play environments, as well as policies and practices that influence these environments.

  1. What can children choose to drink?
  2. How can children choose to be physically active?
  3. How are children encouraged to eat more vegetables and fruits?
  4. What healthy snacks can children choose?
  5. Are children encouraged to be in control of their own eating choices?
  6. Are children encouraged to limit screen time?
  7. Does staff promote healthy food and activity choices?

Each section identifies an eating or activity goal that helps prevent and reduce the risk of overweight and chronic disease. The questions that follow allow users to assess aspects of their program in relation to these goals, each with 4 possible levels to show different degrees of meeting the goal. CHASE was not designed to be a program evaluation tool, but instead highlights potential areas for environmental improvement. By doing so, the tool may help shed light on opportunities for increased dialogue among staff, students, and potential partners.

CHASE designers understand that staff must balance ideal program components with real-world limitations like cost, competing priorities, child and parent preferences, etc. There are no right or wrong answers to CHASE assessment questions. Instead, it is emphasized that wherever their programs are now, one step in a positive direction can help children in their after-school program be healthier.

The development of CHASE was informed by the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (Nap SACC), Cornell’s Choose Health at 4-H Camp self-assessment tool, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s School Health Index, and the Healthy Kids, Healthy New York After-School Initiative toolkit (developed simultaneously). CHASE questions were cognitively tested in a sample of after-school directors in Spring 2009, revised, and released in 2011. CHASE has been used in various after-school programs in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension programming, and also was used successfully as an evaluation tool for the NYS Department of Health’s Creating Healthy Places grant program, where it documented positive changes to various aspects of after-school programs after local intervention.

The CHASE tool is available to download from: https://cfacaa.human.cornell.edu/dns.fnec/files/resources/AfterSchoolAssessmentToolOct2011.pdf 

For more information about CHASE or other Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences youth initiatives, please contact Wendy Wolfe at ww16@cornell.edu.


Contributors 

Ryan Velasco and Alisha GainesPhD, Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences

References

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Nutrition Services branch, North Carolina Division of Public Health: Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (Nap SACC)

Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H: Choose Health at 4-H Camp

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: School Health Index

New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance: Healthy Kids, Healthy New York After-School Model Guidelines, Toolkit and Recognition Program

Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences, Food and Nutrition Education in Communities: Youth Healthy Eating and Active Living Programming


 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.