Program awarded for empowering girls

Aug 31 2017

A world-first program developed at the University of Newcastle (UON) has received national recognition for enhancing the physical and mental wellbeing of young girls by engaging their fathers in positive lifestyle role modelling.

The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) Play Your Part Awards recognise outstanding initiatives that promote the safety and wellbeing of children and young people across the country.

The Dads And Daughters Exercising and Empowered (DADEE) program, a joint initiative between UON and the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI*), has received a national Play Your Part Award.

Led by Professor Phil Morgan, from HMRI's Cardiovascular Research Program, DADEE uses the father-daughter relationship as a key strategy to improve girls’ self-esteem, physical confidence and physical activity.

“Studies show that fathers have a unique and substantial influence on their children’s physical, social, emotional and mental health.

“Despite this, fathers often discount their role in fostering their daughters’ physical activity behaviours and social-emotional wellbeing,” Professor Morgan said.

DADEE uses a range of evidence-based strategies to teach fathers about the significance of their relationship and how to emotionally connect with their daughters.

It has a strong focus on empowering girls through the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills and uses physical activity and sports as the engagement medium with their fathers.

“Actively engaged fathers can improve a range of developmental outcomes in their daughters through positive physical activity parenting, which provides a unique platform to develop a strong father-daughter bond,” Professor Morgan said.

“DADEE provides a range of lifelong positive physical, social and psychological outcomes for girls to manage the challenges that occur during childhood and into adolescence,” he added.

The DADEE program was established in 2014 with support from Port Waratah Coal Services and has since been delivered to over 270 dads and 340 daughters in the Newcastle region.

“We are really proud to receive this award and look forward to seeing the program continue to grow and make a difference to family relationships and the wellbeing of young girls across the country,” Professor Morgan said.

The awards were presented earlier today by the Governor General at a reception held in Government House, Canberra to launch National Child Protection Week.

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