Researchers in USA have proposed that men’s health should be systematically monitored in the perinatal period.
In the USA, a major public health surveillance programme focusing on pregnant women has been running for 30 years: the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). The programme has been valuable for tracking health indicators over time, evaluating public health programmes and addressing emerging health issues, such as e-cigarette use, flu vaccine use and the spread of viruses.
No such monitoring of the health of fathers exists. Information on the health of fathers would be valuable given its influence on child health and development. Also many men do not access health care between high school and middle age; the birth of a baby could be an opportunity to engage men in their own health and gain valuable national data.
There is one enquiry about fathers in PRAMS: women are asked about his violent behaviour.
A team of researchers has developed a new programme, PRAMS for Dads. A pilot project involving 500 fathers in Georgia is underway.
Engaging new fathers for such data collection is a challenge. Reaching married fathers is relatively simple, but 40% of fathers are not at the time of the birth, and these 40% experience increased health risks. Other difficult to reach groups include adolescent, incarcerated and minimally involved fathers.
PRAMS for Dads will cover access to healthcare, as does the current PRAS for mothers. The pilot is testing the relative strengths of approaching fathers through mothers and approaching them directly, not via the mother.
The researchers conclude: “Fathers are more involved with their children than ever before and are often integral to the health of mothers and children. Most research, however, continues to focus exclusively on maternal and child health, thus presenting an incomplete picture of family health.”
Garfield CF et al (2018), Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System for Dads: Public health surveillance of new fathers in the perinatal period, AJPH 108.10
Photo: Ian Sane. Creative Commons.