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Youngsters motivating dads to lead a healthy lifestyle

Keeping boys and men healthy. That’s the theme of Men’s Health Week that is being celebrated across the country next week (11-17 June), and the underlying premise of the University of Newcastle’s Healthy Youngsters Healthy Dads program that was established in 2017 to focus on men’s role in health and bringing it to the forefront of family interactions.

Presented and funded in conjunction with Greater Charitable Foundation, Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads (HYHD), is the University of Newcastle’s world-first, father-focused obesity prevention program for preschool-aged children.

The program provides fathers with the knowledge, parenting skills and motivation to improve their own health and at the same time become healthy role models for their children.

After developing and leading the University of Newcastle program, Professor Phil Morgan said he has been delighted by the exceptionally positive response from the 125 Dads and their preschool aged children who have participated over the past 12 months. Professor Morgan hopes the study outcomes will lead to further funding and partnerships to sustain it in Newcastle and roll it out across New South Wales, Australia and hopefully internationally.

“So far the study findings and the feedback from both the fathers and their youngsters have been outstanding with a very positive response from the Dads,” Prof Morgan said.

“After participating, the majority of the Dads reported that they are now a lot more active with their youngsters and that their youngsters have increased their intake and variety of vegetables, improved their sport skills and have reduced their screen time.

“Interestingly, the biggest impact of the program on the fathers is the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with their youngster, helping to create stronger, healthier relationships.”

One such participant is Scott Shephard. The 32-year-old PE teacher from Fern Bay, along with his four-year-old son, Archie, recently completed the program and gained a lot from their involvement in terms of father/son bonding and bringing the topic of health to the family agenda.

“Being a PE teacher, I’ve got a good understanding of the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle, but the program offered far more than that,” Scott said.

“It was a great forum to promote some positive parenting and teach our kids the importance of forming good habits at an early age, particularly around nutrition and exercise. We know that it’s the information that we provide our kids at this impressionable age that provides the foundations for their life.

“The weekly sessions were a great reminder of the importance of one on one time with your kids and the positive impacts that can have on both dad and child. They also provided an environment where the dads can come together and share thoughts and experiences about parenting and life in general.

“Archie and I both loved the program and it has certainly made a positive impact on our whole household.”

In 2017 the Greater Charitable Foundation provided $350,000 to the Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads (HYHD) over three years, enabling 200 families to access the program, and make a real difference to the way men approach their health and set an example for the next generation.

Anne Long, CEO of the Greater Charitable Foundation, highlights the importance of the program to not only shine a light on men’s health but also provide an interactive and enjoyable experience that enables father to re-evaluate their own health and wellbeing, and also engage more closely with their children.

“This really is a wonderful forum 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.

“The dads who take part are not only becoming more aware of their health and wellbeing needs, but also through practice they are being better and more positive role models for their young children who are at a very impressionable age.

“We are excited to continue to partner with the University of Newcastle on such an innovative program that will have lasting, positive impacts on families all over the Hunter.”

Since 2011, Greater Charitable Foundation has committed more than $8 million in funding to more than 25 different charity partners throughout NSW and South East QLD.

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