Opinion: the founding fathers of health research, by Professor Bu Yeap


Professor Bu Yeap.
Professor Bu Yeap.

RESEARCHERS have long known that fathers play an important role within the family, and that their engagement in child-rearing enhances the health and development of their children in ways that are unique and distinct from mothers.

We also know that much of the development of a child’s brain is determined by his or her daily experiences and interactions with their carers and the world.

A nurturing environment that provides positive experiences from the earliest age – such as those children can have with engaged fathers – supports healthy brain development.

This in turn supports future learning.

Dads, too, increasingly understand how important they are, with research showing fathers want a greater role and more involvement with their newborns.

It makes sense that the healthier a dad is, the more he can contribute to the wellbeing of his child. However, until now, the physical health of expectant fathers hasn’t been well researched.

The Origins Project will undertake a range of studies that explore ways to improve the health of dads-to-be.

The first of these is the CARE-Dads Study (Cardiovascular Risk Evaluation in Expectant Fathers), which will invite 1000 fathers already recruited to Origins to undergo a health check.

Given that as men grow older, they are more likely to be overweight, less active and at higher risk for diabetes or heart disease, the study will be particularly focused on cardiovascular health.

The idea is that if fathers who may be at risk can be identified beforehand, they’ll have an opportunity to improve their health, benefiting their family, their child’s development, and the broader community.

To find out more, visit www.originsproject.telethonkids.org.au.

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