World-first family health program launches

Wednesday, 1 November 2017


A ground-breaking program targeting healthy lifestyle behaviours in families has been awarded $350,000 in funding by the Greater Charitable Foundation to support the program’s delivery across the Hunter region over the next three years.

Developed by a team of multi award-winning researchers at the University of Newcastle (UON), Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads (HYHD) is the world’s first family health program targeting fathers and their preschool-aged children.

Led by Professor Phil Morgan, HYHD will teach fathers evidence-based parenting strategies to improve family eating and physical activity behaviours and optimise their child’s physical and mental development.

“Poor health behaviours are becoming more common in early life. In Australia, 99% of two to four-year-old children have insufficient fruit and vegetable intake and 76% are not meeting physical activity and screen time guidelines.

“As 30 per cent of Australian children are now overweight or obese, it is so important for parents to understand how to instil positive lifestyle behaviours in their children from a young age.” Professor Morgan explained.

“Our research has shown that fathers play a really important, but often under recognised role in improving their children’s health habits. As such, teaching both fathers and children how to adopt and role model healthy eating and physical activity habits has great potential to improve quality of life in families and communities,” he said.

Initially, the research team are seeking 20 fathers with three to five-year-old children to help pilot test the program by taking part together in fun educational and practical activities together at the University of Newcastle. The program will run over eight Sunday mornings in early 2018.

“This program would not have been possible without the generous support of the Greater Charitable Foundation. The funding will enable my team and I to implement a sustainable program that makes a real difference to family health and relationships,” Professor Morgan said.

Greater Charitable Foundation CEO, Anne Long, said the Foundation was proud to support a program that will provide positive outcomes for local families.

“Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads not only establishes the foundations of a happy and healthy life for our young people but also promotes the importance of fathers as positive role models in the community.

“Greater Bank employees will also be participating in this world-first program and look forward to sharing in the outcomes,” Ms Long said.

HYHD will build on the success of other father-focused healthy lifestyle programs run by Professor Morgan’s team, including Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered (DADEE), and Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids (HDHK).

Healthy Youngsters Healthy Dads is led by Chief Investigator Professor Philip Morgan and co-investigators Dr Alyce Barnes, Dr Myles Young, Professor Clare Collins and Ms Emma Pollock.

HYHD also received seed funding of $20,000 through the Rotary Club of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI).

Families can register their interest for the program by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/r/hyhd_eoi or by contacting the research team at HealthyYoungsters@newcastle.edu.au or (02) 4921 6566.