Esther L. Bush (Photo by: ulpgh.org)

By Esther Bush

This month, the “Take Charge of Your Health Today” page focuses on the health benefits associated with fatherhood. Erricka Hager, health advocate at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, and Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, spoke about this topic.

EH: Good afternoon, Ms. Bush. Today’s topic is quite timely with Father’s Day quickly approaching on June 16. I’m excited to have this conversation with you. Today we’re discussing the health benefits that are associated with the responsibilities of becoming a father. Research has shown that involved fathers positively impact their children’s health. Rarely discussed, however, are the impact and health perks that fatherhood can have on the man’s life.

EB: Yes, Erricka. I’m glad that we are discussing the health benefits of being a family man. As you mentioned, a growing body of research has identified the positive correlation between involved fathers and their children’s health. A study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., concluded that children who have active fathers learn better, have higher self-esteem and are less prone to depression than those who don’t. But research also shows that becoming a dad has a profound impact on the man’s physical and mental well-being. A long-term study by the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., found that men with healthy family relationships are less prone to stress-related health problems. And right here at the University of Pittsburgh, pediatric fellow Alicia Boykin, MD, is expanding her research to understand how support affects young fathers under the age of 26.

EH: It is great to see that researchers like Dr. Boykin are expanding their focus. Younger fathers are an understudied and underrepresented population, despite them having similar needs as adolescent and young-adult mothers. However, Dr. Boykin is addressing the research gap with the Young Fathers Study. The purpose of the study is to help researchers learn more about the role that young fathers play in their children’s lives and better understand how health care providers may affect young fathers’ ideas about parenting. Researchers hope their findings will lead to better ways to support young fathers in the future.

EB: Dr. Boykin’s study is very important to mention; thank you, Erricka. However, researchers should be mindful that young fathers may be hard to engage for a variety of reasons. The Urban League can also aid in connecting fathers with support that is available for them.

EH: You’re right, Ms. Bush. And it is so important that our readers continue to volunteer for such research studies so their voices and opinions are included!

EB: This conversation is important, Erricka. Thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront. I hope all of our fathers have a great Father’s Day. I look forward to chatting with you next month about stroke research.

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Take charge of your health today. Be informed. Be involved….Fatherhood

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