Engaging fathers in the first 1000 days to improve perinatal outcomes and prevent obesity: Rationale and design of the First Heroes randomized trial.

Dec 2020 | Rachel C. Whooten, Gracia M. Kwete, Haley Farrar-Muir, Rachel N. Cournoyer, Elizabeth A. Barth, Milton Kotelchuck, & Elsie M. Traveras.


Background: Early pregnancy through the first year of life represents an important period for family health promotion and obesity prevention. Overall, preventive interventions in pregnancy and infancy have insufficiently engaged fathers. We describe the rationale and design of First Heroes, an intervention to improve perinatal and obesity-related outcomes among mother-father-infant triads beginning in pregnancy. 

Methods/Design: First Heroes is a hybrid type 1 effectiveness-implementation randomized trial of mother-father-infant triads recruited in the second trimester of pregnancy from a large Obstetric practice in eastern Massachusetts and continuing through 12 months of infant age. Triads are randomized to the intervention arm or to an enhanced safety education control group. Triads randomized to the intervention arm receive three virtual visits with a health educator, in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, at 3-4 weeks, and 3-4 months postpartum, and receive continuous multimedia education through text messaging, print material, and videos. The educational curriculum addresses parent health behaviors, family relationships, social determinants of health, and infant feeding, sleep, and development. The primary outcome is prevalence of rapid infant weight gain from birth to 6 months of age. Secondary outcomes include parent anthropometrics, parent obesogenic behaviors, family functioning, and infant behaviors. 

Discussion: First Heroes will evaluate the extent to which intentional mother-father dyad engagement, coaching on adoption of early life health behaviors, and addressing social determinants of health, influence obesogenic behaviors and outcomes in the first year of life. Findings from this work will inform future obesity prevention efforts, especially those focused on whole family inclusion. 

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