Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition (We Can!)

National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition (We Can!) is a national science-based education program designed for parents, caregivers, and communities to help children ages 8 to 13 years old maintain a healthy weight. We Can! focuses on the following behaviors:

  • Improved food choices
  • Increased physical activity
  • Reduced screen time

We Can! offers tips, fun activities, and resources to help parents and caregivers encourage these healthy behaviors in their family. It also offers organizations and health professionals with resources to implement science-based educational programming and activities for parents, youth and families in their community.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Physical Activity

Intervention Type: Direct Education, Social Marketing

Intervention Reach and Adoption

We Can! targets parents, caregivers and communities to help children ages 8-13 years old maintain a healthy weight. We Can! also has a curriculum designed for parents and caregivers of children ages 2-5 years old. We Can! activities can be implemented in a variety of settings in the community including hospitals and health systems, parks and recreation departments, public health departments, community-based organizations, schools, and worksites.

Setting: Child care, Community, Faith-based community, Health care, School, Worksite

Target Audience: Preschool (<5 years old), Elementary School, Middle School, Parents/Mothers/Fathers

Race/Ethnicity: All

Intervention Components

We Can! is based on a variety of behavior change theories, including social cognitive theory, community organization theory, and diffusion of innovation theory. We Can! utilizes a variety of strategies to promote healthy weight in children including:

  • Development and dissemination of materials, including curricula to educate parents, caregivers and children; resources for organizations and program planners; consumer-friendly tools for families, communities and health care professionals; and a website
  • Community partnerships with organizations across the country to distribute We Can! messages and materials and run We Can! programs
  • National and corporate partnerships to help spread We Can! programming
  • Media outreach using both national and local print, television, radio and online news media

For community programs interested in starting a local We Can! program, We Can offers a variety of tools, resources and training materials that can be found here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/partner-with-us/local-community-programs.htm

Intervention Materials

We can! provides numerous tools and resources to help promote healthy weight among children by focusing on nutrition, physical activity, and reducing screen time including:

  • Promotional materials including fact sheets, media toolkit, posters and print ads, infographics, podcasts, public service announcements and web banners
  • Programming materials, such as the We Can! Energize Our Community: Toolkit for Action
  • Evidence-based curricula including
    • We Can! Energize Our Families: Parent Program
    • Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active! A Curriculum for Youth
    • EatPlayGrow: A Curriculum for Families with Young Children, and Caregivers of Children
    • I Can Do It, You Can Do It! A curriculum for youth and adults with disabilities
    • CATCH Kids Club A Curriculum for Youth
    • M.A.R.T. (Student Media Awareness to Reduce Television): A Curriculum for Youth
    • SPARK
  • Materials for ethnically diverse populations, including African American, Latino/Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Asian American/Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander populations
  • Resources about public programs and policy
  • Resources for parents, such as tip sheets, parent handbook, recipes, and website content

Tools and Resources can be found here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/tools-resources/index.htm

Information and resources on developing your program can be found here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/partner-with-us/index.htm


Intervention Costs

Cost information coming soon.

Evidence Summary

We Can! conducted an evaluation of 14 Intensive Community Sites selected in 2005 to implement at least one year of We Can! programming in their communities. Sites were asked to implement a parent curriculum and one of three youth curriculum. Self-reported data were collected from participants using curricula-specific questionnaires to assess We Can! objectives. Improvements in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors were seen. A summary of results by curriculum is described below.

We Can! Energize our Families: Curriculum for Parents and Caregivers

  • Improvement in knowledge around energy balance and physical activity
  • Improvement in attitudes towards energy balance, portion size, healthy eating, physical activity and screen time
  • Improvements in behaviors around portion size, healthy eating, physical activity, and screen time

CATCH Kids Club

  • Improvement in knowledge of healthier food choices
  • Improvements in self-efficacy around making healthy food choices and intentions to reduce fat and drink low-fat or skim milk instead of whole milk
  • Increases in the amount of healthy foods such as beans, fruits, 100 fruit juice, and vegetables consumed
  • Reading nutrition labels on food package more often after the program
  • Improvements in physical activity attitudes and decreases in time spent watching TV during the week

Media-Smart Youth

  • Improvements in physical activity knowledge and attitudes

Student Media Awareness to Reduce Television (S.M.A.R.T.)

  • Decrease in youth media consumption from 39 hours at pre-test to 31 hours at post-test


Classification: Evidence-based

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST) Changes – Medium Term (MT) Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT) Population Results (R)
Individual ST1, ST3 MT1, MT3 LT1, LT3
Environmental Settings
Sectors of Influence ST8 MT11, MT12

Evaluation Materials

Evaluation tools assessing factors such as participant knowledge, attitudes and behaviors are available for the various curricula promoted by We Can! and can be found here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/tools-resources/curricula-toolkits.htm


Additional Information

Website: The We Can! website (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/tools-resources/curricula-toolkits.htm) includes information for parents and caregivers on healthy eating, physical activity and reducing screen time and information and resources for communities and health care professionals interested in implementing We Can! programming in their community.

Contact Person(s):
NHLBI Health Information Center
P.O. Box 30105, Bethesda, MD, 20824-0105
Phone: 301-592-8573
Email: nhlbiinfo@nhlbi.nih.gov