Health program for dads and preschoolers

Nov 27 2018

Nathan Vincent and daughter Charlotte

The University of Newcastle is calling for 150 dads with three to five-year-olds to take part in a healthy lifestyle program being offered in the Hunter region.

Following a successful pilot launch last year that involved 25 participants, Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads (HYHD) is now inviting 150 fathers with three to five-year-old children to take part in the Greater Charitable Foundation funded program and instill healthy lifestyle behaviours at home. 

Led by Professor Phil Morgan from the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, HYHD teaches fathers evidence-based parenting strategies to improve family eating and physical activity behaviours in order to optimise their child’s physical and mental development.

“Preliminary data from the pilot program showed promising results, indicating that both youngsters and dads significantly improved their physical activity and overall diet quality. Notably, the youngsters also improved their emotional wellbeing, while the dads enhanced their parenting practices,” Professor Morgan said.

“This next stage will test the program in a more rigorous research trial which will involve a much larger number of families throughout next year.

“We really encourage families to get involved because the early childhood stage of life is a critical period when many behaviours are established and the impact of evidence-based parenting can benefit children not only physically, but also in social-emotional domains.”

Over an eight-week period beginning in January, fathers and their children will take part in educational and practical sessions on a Saturday morning that focus on nutrition and rough and tumble play, fundamental movement skills and fun fitness challenges.

Pilot participant and father, Nathan Vincent, said he joined the program to spend more time with his daughter and be a good role model to provide her with the foundations to live a healthy life.

“I’d strongly encourage other families to take part in the program. Charlotte looked forward to it every week and we learnt a lot. She developed excellent sports skills, learnt how to make healthy eating fun and now she eats yellow capsicum! Most importantly, we had a lot of fun,” Nathan said.

Families can register their interest for the 2019 program by visiting

Greater Charitable Foundation CEO, Anne Long, said the Foundation are proud to be supporting the development of the HYHD program over the next few years.

“We look forward to this program becoming the benchmark for future offerings aimed at encouraging healthy lifestyle habits and strengthening dad-child bonds in those really important stages of early childhood,” Ms Long said.

HYHD builds 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), and also received seed funding of $20,000 through the Rotary Club of Newcastle and HMRI.

Healthy Youngsters, Healthy Dads is led by Chief Investigator Professor Philip Morgan at the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, with co-investigators Dr Alyce Barnes, Dr Myles Young, Ms Emma Pollock and Ms Jackie New from the Faculty of Education and Arts and Professor Clare Collins from the Faculty of Health and Medicine.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.