Innovative education program Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids (HDHK) has been recognised with a 2014 national award for Best Community Engagement Collaboration.
The accolade comes from the Business/Higher Education Round Table and follows closely on the National Excellence in Obesity Prevention Award (2014) by the WHO Collaboration on Obesity Prevention.
Developed by Professor Philip Morgan and his team at the University of Newcastle, the HDHK program teaches dads to be positive-lifestyle role models.
The result is improved physical activity levels and dietary behaviours for themselves and their children.
“During the program they come to understand the profound influence their parenting practices, actions, behaviours, and attitudes have on their children,” Professor Morgan said. “This realisation becomes a driving force behind their motivation to get fit and become more engaged in their children’s lives.”
Evaluations of the trial program show fathers have achieved weight loss, reduced their waist circumferences, lowered their blood pressure, increased their physical activity levels, reduced their calorie intake and improved their overall diet. Children have increased their physical activity, reduced their resting heart rate and decreased their calorie intake.
The program’s success is attributable to the strong partnership between UON, industry sponsor Coal & Allied, Hunter Medical Research Institute and the local schools and communities.
In 2014, the community implementation model has been developed further. HDHK has been evaluated in six communities across the Hunter and Great Lakes regions in partnership with local schools. The results have been overwhelmingly positive with substantial long-term improvements in various health outcomes for both dads and kids.
The physical activity sessions are interactive, highly active, fun and focus on elements found in extensive research to be associated with optimal child development outcomes across physical, cognitive and social-emotional domains. This includes fundamental movement skills, health-related fitness-based activities and rough-and-tumble play.
Children have benefited from the quality time spent with their father, which was found to support positive educational and social outcomes.
Coal & Allied Community Relations Manager Shannon Garcia said the continued recognition for Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids is testament to the positive difference the program makes to the quality of life for many fathers and families.
“For the past five years Coal & Allied has provided support to convert the University of Newcastle’s research into a community-owned model and ensure its sustainability. Funding for locals allows them to gain the skills and knowledge to assist with the program’s ongoing facilitation.
“We are encouraged to see our $600,000 investment through the Coal & Allied Community Development Fund has contributed to providing a sustainable program that delivers real results for our Upper Hunter Valley communities.”
More than 540 families including almost 1000 children have participated in the program to date. HDHK was first successfully piloted at the UON in 2008-09. In 2010, Coal & Allied committed funding over three years to evaluate the program in a community setting in five local government areas in the Hunter region.
* Professor Morgan is deputy director at the University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Cardiovascular Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.