Evaluating a program for new fathers
The Parenting Research Centre (PRC) is pleased to be working alongside the NSW Ministry of Health to evaluate aspects of a pilot program focused on supporting new and expectant fathers. The program, called ‘Focus on New Fathers’, is designed to engage new and expectant fathers during the perinatal period to assist them to navigate the physical, mental and emotional challenges of becoming a dad. It is being rolled out in four Local Health Districts including Northern NSW, Northern Sydney, Western Sydney and Murrumbidgee.
The program sends texts to dads, offering valuable information about baby’s development, tips about caring for themselves, links to reliable health advice and links to support pathways. The aspect of the program that PRC is evaluating is whether online screening and referral is a useful way to identify the need for mental health support among fathers.
PRC Principal Research Specialist Dr Catherine Wade said it was great to be involved in a project that would help build evidence around supports for fathers, a group often reluctant to engage with the health system for their own support needs.
“Understanding what new fathers need and what helps them in the early stages of their parenting journey is really important, because it can help both them and their partners begin that journey on a healthy footing.
“This program is about letting fathers know they are not alone and that there is support for them when they need it.”
Men living in the four regions can sign up if they are over the age of 18, their partner is at least 16 weeks’ pregnant or their baby is younger than 24 weeks with messages continuing until their baby is one. They also need to have a mobile phone capable of receiving and sending text messages.
The pilot, which is being delivered by the University of Newcastle in partnership with NSW Health, will run over the next year.
Associate Professor Elisabeth Murphy, Senior Clinical Advisor, Child and Family Health, said self-care for new fathers was extremely important as the mental and physical wellbeing of both parents had a direct effect on their children.
“Receiving help with health issues early on ensures dads are in the best possible position to care for their new baby and partner,” Associate Professor Murphy said.