VITAHLS: Valley Initiative to Advance Health & Learning in Schools

Building Healthier Communities Together

VITAHLS is the Valley Initiaitve to Advance Health and Learning in Schools. It began in 2011 as a partnership between the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center (PRC), Griffin Hospital, and the Naugatuck Valley school districts in Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, and Shelton, along with Emmett O’Brien Technical High School. Over time, the Naugatuck Valley Health District, Naugatuck Public Schools, Massaro Community Farm, ShopRite Supermarket, and Valley YMCA have also joined the VITAHLS partnership.

The aim of VITAHLS is to promote a healthy lifestyle to PreK-12 students in the Naugatuck Valley and their families, and to school staff as well. This includes a focus on nutrition and physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.

VITAHLS health promotion efforts have evolved and expanded over time. Those designed for students have included elementary school programs (Nutrition Detectives and ABC for Fitness), a middle school nutrition education program (Your Road to Health), an annual healthy cooking competition, a cookbook, school gardens, field trips to a community farm, a nutritional scoring system in school cafeterias, and physical activity videos featuring local high school students. Those intended for school staff have included Coach to 5K training programs, healthy weight loss competitions, and a nutrition workshop.

VITAHLS includes evaluation components to track the success of our interventions, determine the effectiveness of the partnership, and invite health promotion ideas and opinions from students, parents, and school staff. The VITAHLS initiative has been made possible through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Griffin Hospital, along with supplemental funding from the Jones Family Farm.

Mission Statement

The Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital, and the Valley School Districts (Ansonia, Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour, and Shelton schools, including Emmett O’Brien Technical High School), are committed to promoting the health of the Valley community and to combating childhood obesity. The Valley Initiative to Advance Health & Learning in Schools (VITAHLS) brings together Griffin Hospital, the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, and the five Valley school districts to develop, implement, evaluate, and sustain a Valley-wide school-based childhood obesity prevention program to reduce the prevalence of obesity in students in grades Pre-K through 12.


  • Reduce the prevalence of obesity among students enrolled in the Lower Naugatuck Valley School Districts
  • Promote the health, wellbeing, and academic readiness of these students
  • Develop a comprehensive and sustainable obesity prevention initiative focusing on nutrition and physical activity for grades Pre-K through 12
  • Extend  the health promotion efforts to include parents/families and school staff

Objectives of the VITAHLS Initiative

  • Create an obesity prevention initiative to:
    • Increase nutrition knowledge and healthy eating
    • Increase physical activity within and outside of the school day
  • Create and support a health-promoting environment within the school setting
  • Create programs/activities that can be easily incorporated into the school day
  • Include policy, environmental/structural and educational components
  • Create programs/activities that can be sustained over time with little to no budget impact on schools
  • Secure funding to support any program-related costs
  • Include and encourage participation at all levels – students, parents, family, teachers, and staff
  • Increase community awareness of obesity and health-related risks
  • Effectively communicate and promote the VITAHLS initiative
  • Evaluate the impact of the VITAHLS initiative
  • Demonstrate improvement in the health of students by:
    • Reducing the prevalence of obesity
    • Reducing the average number of sick days per student