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Inaugural public health survey of new dads to help improve outcomes for entire family

ANI | Updated: Jan 22, 2022 18:56 IST


Chicago (Illinois) [US], January 22 (ANI): It is a known fact that while federal legislation requires tracking and reporting data on maternal health behaviours around childbirth, fathers tend to get overlooked in these public health efforts to improve maternal and infant outcomes.
Recognising that new dads played an important role in the health and wellbeing of children and families, Craig Garfield, MD, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Public Health to develop and pilot a new survey on the health behaviours and experiences of men as they enter fatherhood. The findings were published in the journal 'PLOS ONE'.
Modelled on the annual surveillance tool that the CDC and public health departments have used for the past 35 years for new mothers called PRAMS (Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System), PRAMS for Dads for the first time provided data on the unique needs of new fathers.
"Having a reliable source of information to see how men are impacted by the transition to fatherhood is an important first step in understanding how best to support families and children today," said Dr Garfield, lead author on the study and founder of the Family & Child Health Innovations Program (FCHIP) at Lurie Children's. Dr. Garfield also is a Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
"For example, we found that 70 per cent of fathers in our survey were overweight or had obesity, so clearly public health strategies are needed to address this issue, which has significant health ramifications for the child and the entire family," explained Dr Garfield. "Likewise, nearly 20 per cent reported smoking, 13 per cent were binge drinking and 10 per cent had depressive symptoms since their infant's birth. These data, especially in combination with data from mothers, offer a roadmap of where we need to focus attention to improve the health and wellbeing of families during pregnancy and after a child is born."

Three other states - Massachusetts, Ohio and Michigan - have started replicating the piloted process and the relatively inexpensive means to survey new fathers.
"We have the tools and are ready to go," said Dr Garfield. "We need partners on the state level who can secure funding and implement this surveillance for dads in their state. Equally important on the national level, just as we have had decades of federal funding to track the health of new mothers, we need the legislative will to build the public health infrastructure to track and respond to the needs of new dads, to help them truly be there for their child and family."
Previous research has linked fathers' involvement to improved maternal and infant health, including longer breastfeeding duration, lower levels of maternal depression, earlier prenatal care initiation, higher utilization of postnatal care services, and improved child developmental, psychological, and cognitive outcomes.
Studies also have revealed that men often viewed the birth of their child as a lever for change in their own health habits.
"Fatherhood presents an opportunity for men to improve their own health, and healthy fathers are more likely to participate in childrearing, support mothers in parenting, and have healthy children," added Dr Garfield. (ANI)

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