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Becoming a father impacts men’s health and wellbeing, while also contributing to the health and wellbeing of mothers and children. There is no large-scale, public health surveillance system aimed at understanding the health and behaviors of men transitioning into fatherhood. The purpose of this study was to describe piloted randomized approaches of a state-based surveillance system examining paternal behaviors before and after their infant’s birth to better understand the health needs of men and their families during the transition to parenthood.
During October 2018–July 2019, 857 fathers in Georgia were sampled 2–6 months after their infant’s birth from birth certificates files and surveyed via mail, online or telephone, in English or Spanish, using two randomized approaches: Indirect-to-Dads and Direct-to-Dads. Survey topics included mental and physical health, healthcare, substance use, and contraceptive use.
Weighted response rates (Indirect-to-Dads, 33%; Direct-to-Dads, 31%) and population demographics did not differ by approach. Respondents completed the survey by mail (58%), online (28%) or telephone (14%). Among 266 fathers completing the survey, 55% had a primary care physician, and 49% attended a healthcare visit for themselves during their infant’s mother’s pregnancy or since their infant’s birth. Most fathers were overweight or had obesity (70%) while fewer reported smoking cigarettes (19%), binge drinking (13%) or depressive symptoms (10%) since their infant’s birth.
This study tests a novel approach for obtaining population-based estimates of fathers’ perinatal health behaviors, with comparable response rates from two pragmatic approaches. The pilot study results quantify a number of public health needs related to fathers’ health and healthcare access.