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New research shows importance of fathers in childhood obesity interventions

Posted at 10:04 AM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 11:04:13-05

WACO, Texas — Researchers from Baylor University, Texas A&M and Texas State University teamed up to create a new program aimed at combating childhood obesity.

The six-week program was designed for Mexican American families in South Texas. While traditional wellness programs typically target moms, this program focused on dads.

“We would hear from moms, ‘Oh, he’s not interested. My husband isn’t interested. He doesn’t care about nutrition, he doesn’t have time.’ But then when you would talk to the dad he’d say 'hey, I want to know. I’m interested in the health of my child. I'm interested in the health of my family,'” said Dr. Joseph Sharkey, professor at Texas A&M.

The researchers surveyed the families’ fruit and vegetable intake, exercise, and communication skills at the beginning and end of the course.

They saw that the families made real changes. When they checked in again three months later, the new healthy habits were still in place.

“We recognize that the day of just having a talking head at the front of the room having someone tell you what you should eat or what you shouldn’t eat and giving you a handout, those days really are gone,” said Dr. Sharkey.

Researchers believe this family-centric approach could have a big impact on pediatric nutrition programs across the country and, most importantly, a lifelong benefit for kids.

“Ideally it’s the prevention of obesity but it’s also about healthy living, and engaging the entire family,” said Dr. Sharkey.