More than 80 Hunter dads looking to improve their health and wellbeing, while building stronger connections with their children, are taking part in the University of Newcastle’s popular Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads (HYHD) program that kicks of this week.
With only one-third of Australian pre-school aged children meeting physical activity and screen-time guidelines, the Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads program provides fathers with the knowledge, parenting skills and motivation to improve their own health while being healthy role models for their children.
The eight-week program, made possible through funding from Greater Charitable Foundation, includes two dads-only evening workshops and eight ‘dad’s and youngsters’ sessions (including education and practical) held on Saturday mornings at New Lambton South Primary School and Callaghan College Wallsend Campus.
The practical sessions focus on the three key areas of rough and tumble play, fundamental movement skills and fun fitness. These aspects are known to optimise the physical and mental health of youngsters.
The Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads program was developed by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Phil Morgan and team who recognised the importance of the early childhood and preschool years as a key developmental stage.
“Dads can have a unique influence on their children’s behaviours from a young age as they often facilitate physical activity at home and can be good role models for skill development,” Professor Morgan said.
“In fact, the physical and stimulating play between a father and his children has been found to have many positive social, emotional, cognitive and physical outcomes for families.
“We’ve found the youngsters involved in the program have shown improvements in their physical activity and sport skills such as catching and kicking, improved their emotional regulation and dietary intake.
“And of course, the dads who participate in the program love the one-on-one time with their youngsters and the chance to bond through healthy eating and physical play together.”
One such dad is David Lewis who completed the program last year with his five-year-old daughter, Vivienne. He found the program had such a positive impact that he is participating again this year with his four-year-old daughter, Geneva.
“Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dad’s is an excellent program that has benefitted our entire family’s fitness, emotional wellbeing and relationships with one another,” David said.
“I learnt so much, including the most beneficial way of feeding our kids, how important it is to monitor screen time and how enjoyable it was to have a dedicated and structured dad and daughter time.
“We do much more exercise now and have built our daily exercise routine with the skills that we learnt during the program. Vivienne is also much more involved in food shopping and preparation, and she also plays a more active role in choosing more educational screen time to watch,” he said.
After postponing the program earlier in the year due to COVID-19, Greater Charitable Foundation provided additional funding support to ensure the program continued now restrictions have eased in the Hunter.
Since partnering with the program in 2017, Greater Charitable Foundation has provided $440,000 to support Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads. According to foundation CEO, Anne Long, this has enabled families from across the region to access the program and make a real difference to the way men approach their health and set an example for the next generation.
“It’s wonderful to partner with a program that brings together families by encouraging participation in physical activities and education around certain lifestyle choices that ultimately lead to improved overall health for everyone involved,” said Ms Long.
“We are excited to continue our support of such an innovative program that will have lasting, positive impacts on families all over the Hunter.”
To date, nine HYHD programs have been delivered to more than 140 fathers and pre-schoolers in the Newcastle region. The program impact has been evaluated in both a feasibility trial and later in a ‘gold standard’ randomised controlled trial.