Health Dads not involved in childhood obesity programs

Dads not involved in childhood obesity programs

Failure to recognise the important role fathers play in influencing children’s physical activity and dietary habits.

Fathers are often a missing link in research investigating the effectiveness of childhood obesity prevention programs, a University of Newcastle (UON) study has confirmed.

Lead investigator, Professor Phil Morgan said finding ways to reduce escalating childhood obesity levels, physical inactivity and poor eating habits was an international health priority. The research team conducted the world’s first systematic review of obesity treatment and prevention programs for children over a 10 year period.

All programs included some form of parent involvement but fathers were under-represented across all study types and population groups. Notably, very few studies had recognised that the lack of father involvement was a possible limitation.

Professor Morgan said the programs had failed to recognise the unique, independent and important role of fathers in their children’s lives.

“Fathers have a particularly important influence on key behaviours such as their children’s physical activity and dietary habits, which are linked to a child’s weight status. Quality and quantity time spent with dad is important,” he said.

The UON study indicates that a culture shift is needed, where researchers design programs that appeal to fathers and minimise the barriers to father involvement.

“The emotional bond between fathers and their children has been referred to as an ‘activation relationship’” that develops primarily through physical play and enhances children’s physical and social-emotional outcomes,” Professor Morgan said.

Read more about fathers’ important roles here.Story credit: University of Newcastle newsroom.

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