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About Us

What is CAST?

The Communities and Schools Together (CAST) project is a unique partnership among the Bethel School district, Oregon Research Institute, and several community organizations. Our mission is to support schools, parents, and community groups in reducing childhood obesity. We do this by working together to increase neighborhood health and safety for elementary school children.

The CAST project was conducted at the Oregon Reseach Institute, and lead by Deb Johnson-Shelton,  PhD (PI), Shawn M. Boles, PhD (Co-I), and Geraldine Moreno-Black, PhD (Co-I). The project was made possible through funding provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Grant R01 #HD057839.

How does CAST work?

CAST is taking place at seven Bethel School District elementary schools with a total enrollment of 3,000 students. CAST partners, families, and researchers work together to identify community strengths and concerns for childhood health, and develop ways to respond to community health goals. Parents and partners gather the following information to support the health and safety of children:

  • Safe routes for children to bike and walk to school
  • Annual height and weight data for elementary school children
  • Places where children can play safely and have physical activity
  • Places and ways that families and children can find affordable, healthy foods

What is community based participatory research?

This form of research relies on the people who live in a community to help make decisions on what is important for local health and well being. CAST uses community based participatory research to involve community members in identifying health issues that are important to families.

How do parents participate in CAST?

Parents are invited to join the Parent Advisory Council. The role of the council is to help develop assessments, involve other families in the project, and assist other partners in understanding the information that is collected and what to do with it. Other ways parents can participate in CAST are by completing brief questionnaires; mapping community places such as grocery stores, parks and bike paths; participating in small group discussions; and selecting programs to support healthy nutrition and physical activity for Bethel children.

How are we protecting CAST information?

Families participating in the CAST project do so confidentially, with no names attached to their records. Family members who choose to participate in CAST research will have their identities protected through the use of identification numbers.

What will we do with information?

CAST information will help develop a community health database.  This will help us understand Bethel's strengths and needs pertaining to children's safety and health. The Parent Advisory Council and other parents will help us decide what this information means and what to do with it.  The information may be used to write grants for building sidewalks and bike paths, or for new afterschool physical activity programs.

How long does CAST last?

CAST is a five-year project. It began in May 2008 and will end in April 2013.

Why are we working with the Bethel School District?

Childhood health and safety needs are increasing nationally. Social scientists at Oregon Research Institute have developed a working relationship with Bethel schools because of shared interests in these needs. The Bethel community has grown quickly in recent years and the effects of such growth are not necessarily easy to understand.  Is it easy or difficult for children to walk to school in Bethel neighborhoods? Are there safe places for children to recreate outside such as parks or bike paths?  Is it easy to access affordable fresh produce in neighborhood grocery stores? These are the kinds of questions we hope to answer through CAST.