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Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Teaches Kids about Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

March 13, 2012

OAKLAND, Calif. — Live productions involving music, puppets and plays are effective ways of teaching young children about the importance of eating healthy and being physically active, an independent study of Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program found. The Center for Community Health and Evaluation’s article was published online March 8 in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Educational Theatre Programs

More than 2,900 third- and fourth-graders in nine states and the District of Columbia were surveyed about four healthy eating and active living behaviors before and after watching an ETP production. According to the study, the percentage of children who answered all four questions correctly increased from 17 percent to 63 percent immediately after ETP performances; an assessment three weeks later showed only a slight decline in retention.

“The results are good news for parents and doctors worried about childhood obesity,” said Allen Cheadle, PhD, director of the Seattle-based Center for Community Health and Evaluation. “Not only can young children learn simple rules about eating healthy and being active, but they can also retain these important lessons.”

Since 1986 Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program has performed free, live productions for more than 15 million young people and their families on such topics as puberty, bullying and depression, to name a few. The study evaluated performances that dealt with such issues as how many fruits and vegetables children should eat daily or how many minutes of physical activity they should be doing every day.

“We know children learn best when they are engaged and entertained; live theater is a very powerful tool to inspire them to develop lifelong healthy habits,” said John Edmiston, national manager, Community Engagement, Kaiser Permanente.

In 2006, to address the obesity epidemic and health issues related to poor nutrition and inactivity, Kaiser Permanente’s Community Benefit created Community Health Initiatives, a comprehensive, community-based approach to health aiming to create healthier neighborhoods. Promoting Healthy Eating Active Living messages is the focus of this effort.

“The rise of obesity in children and adolescents has become one of the most significant public health issues of our time,” said Loel Solomon, PhD, vice president, Community Health for Community Benefit at Kaiser Permanente. “Our ETP partners are reaching our most important audience — our children — and teaching them how to make healthy choices for themselves. Their productions are one of the most effective ways we are able to deliver these important messages beyond the walls of our medical office buildings.”

Each of Kaiser Permanente’s eight regions has its own Educational Theatre Program. A sample of the work around childhood obesity includes:

  • The Amazing Food Detective, created in 2007, highlights how healthy food choices, physical activity, and limited screen time contribute to an individual’s total health.
  • In Georgia, characters such as Cris P. Broccoli in Give Peas a Chance teach kids how to make healthier nutrition choices and the benefits of physical activity.
  • In Northern California, The Best Me inspires elementary school students and their families to make healthier choices for their lives through dancing and songs.
  • In Hawaii and Ohio, educational theater troupes consist of student actors from local schools, addressing subjects such as healthy eating and active living.
  • In Oregon and Washington, Kaiser Permanente launched , a production aimed at triggering conversation about what makes it so difficult for children and adults to maintain a healthy weight, and working toward creating safe, empathetic places to learn and live.
  • In Southern California, the bilingual parent workshop, From the Label to the Table, teaches parents to make healthier food choices by reading food labels, cutting down on the consumption of sugary beverages and increasing physical activity. Additionally, the MPOWR summer enrichment program teaches middle school students healthy eating and active living through an arts-based curriculum.

ETP is just one example of Kaiser Permanente’s ongoing work to identify and treat childhood obesity. Most recently, Kaiser Permanente announced a partnership with Home Box Office, the Institute of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to address obesity as a critical public health crisis with HBO’s latest documentary series: The Weight of the Nation. The series and campaign spotlight the severity of the obesity epidemic and showcase strategies that work in order to catalyze action to end obesity.

About Kaiser Permanente

About Kaiser Permanente Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to:

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, is a scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide.