Celebrating dads: What a difference a dad makes

Celebrating dads: What a difference a dad makes

8 September 2020

With his programs being taken up across NSW, championed by the State Government and delivered in the UK, the University of Newcastle’s Professor Philip Morgan has become the go-to guy for understanding the role dads play in getting their kids healthy and active.

For the past six years Professor Morgan’s dad programs have gained international and local attention, based on his firm belief that fathers have a unique and powerful influence on their children’s physical, social, emotional and mental health development.

The parenting styles of fathers not mothers, predicts the overweight status of preschool children and fathers’ parenting styles also predict better maintenance of weight loss in obese children.

Father-of-three Professor Morgan says fathers are the prime motivator in their daughter’s life, and – alarmed at the drop in physical activity in adolescent girls in Australia – developed Daughters and Dads Active Empowered program, named as a key initiative in the NSW Government’s ‘Her Sport, Her Way’ 2019-2023 strategy.

“Research has consistently demonstrated the unique and powerful influence dads wield in shaping physical activity behaviours, learning ability, self-esteem, body image, social skills and resilience, particularly for girls,” he says.

“Importantly, we also know that a strong father-daughter relationship is associated with significant positive psycho-social developmental and health outcomes for the daughter. Physical activity is a unique domain to foster this relationship.”

As part of the program, dads attend fun gym classes with their daughters and learn basic physical skills such as jumping, throwing and balancing. Along with establishing healthy physical habits, the program shows dads the importance of being involved with the growth of their daughters.

The Daughters and Dads Active Empowered program has been delivered to over 1000 participants over the last five years and this year was picked up by Cricket Australia and Cricket NSW, rebranded as Daughters and Dads Cricket. 

The program has also been delivered in the UK in a partnership with Sport-UK, who is targeting lower socio-economic groups.

Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids is another of Professor Morgan’s pioneering programs that started in the Hunter region and went global.

It engages dads in positive lifestyle role modelling and parenting strategies, helping fathers achieve and maintain a healthy weight while also improving the overall health of their children.

In the first trial groups, dads increased physical activity levels and made meaningful weight loss progress, maintaining new habits over 12 months.

Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids has since been delivered to 500 families, including 900 children across the Hunter Region of NSW.

It has been adapted and delivered to communities in Birmingham, UK and Texas, USA (for Hispanic families) in collaborations with University of Birmingham and Baylor College of Medicine respectively.

HDHK was showcased at the NSW Universities Research Impact launch at NSW Parliament House in 2019.

A third program, Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads, targets fathers and their preschool aged children to improve physical activity and nutrition.

This program was rolled out in 2018 and teaches fathers effective parenting skills for role modelling a healthy lifestyle.

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